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The merits and shortcomings of quantitative and qualitative research

Research methods are "strategy(s) for gathering data" (Harding, 1986) and tend to be dichotomized into being either quantitative or qualitative. It has been argued that technique has been gendered (Oakley, 1998), with quantitative methods usually being associated with words such as positivism, methodical, objectivity, statistics and masculinity. In contrast, qualitative methods have generally been associated with interpretive, non-scientific, subjectivity and femininity.

Quantitative Research Techniques and Procedures

Qualitative analysis is an activity that is often the precursor to quantitative, statistical work; an activity to make the tacit underpinnings of a concern explicit; a process you may use to deepen your knowledge of complex public and real human factors that cannot be understood with numbers; a process that helps you figure out what to count and what things to measure (Kerlin, 1999, p. 1).

A common way of executing quantitative research is by using a survey. Research usually involve filling in a questionnaire. You can find, of course, a variety of types of quantitative research besides the study. Observational research includes watching or observing various manners and patterns. More complicated kinds of quantitative research are experimental research or numerical modelling research (Peter J. P. & Donnelly J. H, 2000).

In the social sciences, quantitative research identifies the systematic empirical exploration of quantitative properties and phenomena and their connections. The aim of quantitative research is to develop and employ numerical models, ideas and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena. The process of way of measuring is central to quantitative research since it provides the important connection between empirical observation and mathematical appearance of quantitative romantic relationships.

Quantitative research is employed widely in interpersonal sciences such as mindset, sociology, anthropology, and political research. Research in mathematical sciences such as physics is also 'quantitative' by description, though this use of the term differs in framework. In the sociable sciences, the word relates to empirical methods, while it began with both philosophical positivism and the annals of statistics, which comparison qualitative research methods.

Qualitative methods produce information only on the particular cases studied, and any more general conclusions are only hypotheses. Quantitative methods can be used to verify, which of such hypotheses are true.

Qualitative Research Techniques and Procedures

Qualitative research is a universal term for investigative methodologies referred to as ethnographic, naturalistic, anthropological, field, or participant observer research. It stresses the value of taking a look at parameters in the natural setting in which they are found. Interaction between variables is important. Complete data is collected through open finished questions offering direct quotations. The interviewer is an integral part of the exploration (Jacob, 1988). This differs from quantitative research which tries to assemble data by objective methods to provide information about relationships, evaluations, and predictions and attempts to remove the investigator from the exploration (Smith, 1983).

According to Andrew (2007), qualitative research is a way of inquiry appropriated in various academic disciplines, typically in the public sciences, but also in general market trends and additional contexts. Qualitative research workers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of human tendencies and the reasons that govern such patterns. The qualitative method investigates the why and exactly how of decision making, not just what, where, when. Hence, smaller but targeted samples are more often needed, alternatively than large samples.

According to Andrew (2007), qualitative research is utilized to denote methods which are supported by a couple of hypotheses regarding the way the communal world functions. It deduces a lot of its basics from the perspective that we now have fundamental differences between the science of human being world and knowledge of natural world and therefore needs to use distinctive methods. Here, attention is targeted upon considering the world through the eye of studied items and upon innovating concepts and ideas which can be grounded in the collecting data. So, qualitative research linked with own accounts of the individuals of their attitudes and behavior. The significance of qualitative research comprises in establishing stress on explaining, understanding intricate phenomena. It investigates, for illustration, the associations and habits among factors or the context where the activity happens. It is focused on understanding the entire many-dimensional picture of the subject of investigation.

Qualitative methods produce information only on this cases studied, and any longer general conclusions are just hypotheses (helpful guesses). The aim of qualitative research is to deepen our understanding about something, and usually this means going beyond the numbers and the statistics. Qualitative research helps us to provide reasons why the numbers reveal what they do. It is contrasted to quantitative research - plus they are extremely often used jointly to find the 'bigger picture' of what we are trying to find out. Qualitative research helps us 'flesh out the story'.

Face-to-Face Interviews and Target Groups

The most typical forms of qualitative research are face-to-face interviews and focus groups. Face-to-face interviews are just that: Reaching someone in person and discussing various issues. The informant - or person you are interviewing - may be an expert in a particular field (e. g. the editor of your paper) or they might be somebody who is influenced by the issues you are exploring (e. g. someone who is HIV positive or who reads the media).

Focus groups entail discussions with several participants. While questions for concentration groups need to be prepared to guide and focus the conversations, the responses are often free-ranging, as the participants should explore the issues at hand in an in-depth way.

While focus categories and interviews will help you develop explanations for quantitative data, sometimes they can offer you with quantitative data themselves

Basic Distinctions between Quantitative and Qualitative Research Techniques

Quantitative and qualitative research methods vary primarily in:

their analytical objectives

the types of questions they pose

the types of data collection tools they use

the varieties of data they produce

the amount of flexibility built into study design

The key difference between quantitative and qualitative methods is their overall flexibility. Generally, quantitative methods are pretty inflexible. With quantitative methods such as studies and questionnaires, for example, research workers ask all individuals equivalent questions in the same order. The response categories that individuals may choose are "closed-ended" or set. The benefit of this inflexibility is the fact that it allows for meaningful comparability of replies across individuals and review sites. However, it requires a thorough knowledge of the top questions to ask, the ultimate way to ask them, and the range of possible responses.

Qualitative methods are typically more flexible - that is, they allow greater spontaneity and version of the relationship between your researcher and the study participant. For example, qualitative methods ask typically "open-ended" questions that are not necessarily worded in exactly the same way with each participant. With open-ended questions, individuals are free to react in their own words, and these reactions tend to be more complex than "yes" or "no. "

In addition, with qualitative methods, the partnership between the researcher and the participant is often less formal than in quantitative research. Individuals have the chance to answer more elaborately and in greater detail than is typically the case with quantitative methods. Subsequently, researchers hold the opportunity to act in response immediately to what members say by tailoring succeeding questions to information the participant has provided. Merriam (1988) provided a basis for differentiating qualitative and quantitative research techniques based on their characteristics.

Characteristics of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Point of Comparisons

Qualitative Research

Quantitative Research

Focus of research

Quality (nature, essence)

Quantity (how much, how many)

Philosophical roots

Phenomenology, symbolic interaction

Positivism, reasonable empiricism

Associated phrases

Fieldwork, ethnographic, naturalistic, grounded, subjective

Experimental, empirical, statistical

Goal of investigation

Understanding, description, breakthrough, hypothesis generating

Prediction, control, explanation, verification, hypothesis testing

Design characteristics

Flexible, developing, emergent

Predetermined, structured


Natural, familiar

Unfamiliar, artificial


Small, non-random, theoretical

Large, random, representative

Data collection

Researcher as main tool, interviews, observations

Inanimate devices (scales, tests, surveys, questionnaires, computer systems)

Mode of analysis

Inductive (by researcher)

Deductive (by statistical methods)


Comprehensive, alternative, expansive

Precise, small, reductionist

However, there is a range of versatility among methods found in both quantitative and qualitative research and that flexibility is no indication of how clinically rigorous a method is. Rather, the degree of flexibility demonstrates the type of understanding of the situation that is being pursued using the method.

Merits of Quantitative Analysis

The use of surveys permit a researcher to review more variables at onetime than is normally possible in laboratory or field tests, whilst data can be gathered about real life environments.

The usefulness of your survey is the fact the info you get is standardized because each respondent - the person who fills out the questionnaire - is responding to the exact same questions. Once you have enough responses to your questionnaire, after that you can put the info together and assess it in a way that answers your quest question - or what it is you want to know.

Since circumstance studies follow a set up format, different situations can be compared or analyzed relatively. Case studies are typically short (often no more than 5 pages long) and usually only contain the essential information had a need to present a predicament and, if possible, to spell it out and properly review an issue.

Quantitative data can determine when students have achieved or failed an activity, and they provides national rank, percentiles, and allow researchers to conduct comparison analyses. Nevertheless, they can not supply the "total" picture of why a specific college student has either succeeded or failed (Burnaford et al. , 2001; Gall et al. , 1996 and Mc Bride-to-be & Schostak, 2000).

In quantitative research, the researcher neither participates in nor affects what is

being examined; thus, he/she examines the circumstances objectively. In some qualitative research, the researcher may play a far more subjective role and participate when you are immersed in his/her research. That's, the observer could be the educator or the facilitator. This role is usually the circumstance with when action research, case studies, and focus groups are used in educational research.

Advantages of surveys

Good for comparative examination.

Can get a lot of data in a comparatively short space of time.

Can be cost-effective (if you use the web, for example).

Can take less time for respondents to complete (compared to an interview or concentrate group)

Specific concrete example;

Can help with problem dealing with;

Are often interesting to read.

Demerits of Quantitative Analysis

A key weakness of quantitative evaluation is that it is very difficult to realize insights relating to the sources of or processes involved in the phenomena measured. A couple of, in addition, several resources of bias such as the possibly self-selecting character of respondents, the idea with time when the study is conducted and in the researcher him/herself through the look of the survey itself.

It could be argued that the quantitative researcher is more specific, but the

response would be that with people it isn't possible to be so correct,

people change and the interpersonal situation is too complex for numerical

description. Quantitative research has a tendency to clarify where

clarification is not appropriate. (Mc Bride-to-be& Schostak, 2000, pp. 1-2)

Disadvantages of Surveys

Responses might not be specific.

Questions may be misinterpreted.

May not get as much responses as you will need.

Don't get full history.

Can remember to develop;

Depending on format, might need some level of good writing skills;

Do not usually give extensive overview of concern accessible.

Merits of Qualitative Techniques

The strategies of the qualitative research change from the techniques of the quantitative research. Quantitative methods have their target in dividing into plainly identified parts, or factors. Whenever we research an issue which we know how to quantify, for example, what can be quantified for sure, we may leave out the factors which are necessary to the real knowledge of the phenomena under research (Andrew, 2007).

Qualitative methods are helpful not only in offering wealthy explanations of intricate phenomena, however in creating or growing ideas or conceptual bases, and in proposing hypotheses to clarify the phenomena. Besides, value of the qualitative research is composed in validity of the information received; people are minutely interviewed so as the obtained data would be taken as right and believable reports of their ideas and activities. Its major drawback is the fact small band of interviewed individuals can not be taken as representative (Andrew, 2007).

Case studies entail an attempt to describe relationships that exist in reality, frequently in a single organization. Case studies may be positivist or interpretivist in mother nature, with regards to the approach of the researcher, the info gathered and the analytical techniques used. Reality can be captured in more detail by an observer-researcher, with the research of more variables than is typically possible in experimental and survey research.

Another type of qualitative evaluation is site appointments. Site visits help you understand your research better; site appointments (e. g. when you visit an organization, a manufacturing facility, a clinic or a real estate project) are incredibly useful or even necessary means of gaining additional perception and making your theoretical information concrete in your mind. They allow you to observe the proceedings, and to ask questions you may not have thought about.

Qualitative research has a phenomenological target that can provide an enriched and

detailed explanation of the participants' actions and/or viewpoints (Veronesi, 1997).

Advantages of Face-to-Face Interviews

Can enable in-depth knowledge posting;

Helps to develop the larger picture;

Helps with examination of results;

Good for networking (e. g. you may be referred to other folks to interview).

Advantages of Concentrate Groups

Good for community contribution (grassroots insight);

Helpful in developing ideas and sharing latent, or covered, knowledge spontaneously;

Enables someone to get information from a number of individuals simultaneously.

Advantages of Site Appointments and Observation

Demerits of Qualitative Analysis

Case studies can be viewed as weak as they are typically restricted to a single business and it is difficult to generalize conclusions since it is difficult to find similar instances with similar data that can be analyzed in a statistically significant way.

Disadvantages of Face-to-Face Interviews

Can be time consuming;

May be difficult to arrange an interview time;

Can be difficult to compare and analyze information.

Disadvantages of Concentration Groups

Can be difficult to create;

Participants may need to be paid;

Need to be sensitive to who the facilitator is;

May need a translator;

Sometimes difficult to organize and evaluate information.

Disadvantages of Site Goes to and Observation

Take time;

Can be costly (depending what lengths you need to visit);

With observation specifically, you need to be careful how you interpret what the thing is. With site trips, you may want to make sure you have a guide so as to ask questions

However, the downside of the quantitative as well as qualitative research is that they do not always underpin knowledge of multi-dimensional pictures (Andrew, 2007).

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