What’s the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?

Many times those that undertake a research project often find they are not aware of the differences between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research methods.  Many mistakenly think the two terms can be used interchangeably.

So what is the difference between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research?

Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research is primarily exploratory research. It is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research. Qualitative Research is also used to uncover trends in thought and opinions, and dive deeper into the problem. Qualitative data collection methods vary using unstructured or semi-structured techniques. Some common methods include focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations. The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected to fulfil a given quota.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative Research is used to quantify the problem by way of generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into usable statistics. It is used to quantify attitudes, opinions, behaviors, and other defined variables – and generalize results from a larger sample population. Quantitative Research uses measurable data to formulate facts and uncover patterns in research. Quantitative data collection methods are much more structured than Qualitative data collection methods. Quantitative data collection methods include various forms of surveys – online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk surveys, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations.

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59 thoughts on “What’s the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?

  1. najma on said:

    thank u,it is easy 4 me 2 understand about the differences of the 2 research methods…

  2. Diana Appiah on said:

    Thanks so much for the answer. what are the methods of analyzing quantitative data in research?

  3. Many thanks for giving me clear understanding around the differences between the two approaches

  4. hlanganani mnguni on said:

    thank you for differentiating the two it makes sense now however i would really appreciate to know the authors behind the two approaches

  5. camilo tabinas on said:

    While defining quantitative and qualitative research based on their uses and purposes may be considered a practical approach for researcher, the difference actually lies on their roots: Quality and quantity. Procedures, designs, concepts, purposes and uses emanate from there. Example on qualitative research referring to quality where problems are answered without generally focusing on quantity, are descriptions (in words) coming form interviews, discussions or observations. However when words are translated to quantity in order to describe or to generalize, then the research is now called quantitatitive research. The bottom lines are the questions: “What is/are ” for quality and” how much/many” for quantity.

  6. Nkululeko on said:

    thanks for giving the clear picture on the difference between the two because it could be so confusing for students if not clearly explained.

  7. Ester Robina on said:

    Many thanks for giving me clear understanding around the differences between the qualitative and quantative research.

  8. Tshililo on said:

    Thanks a millions time. I was struggling to get an idea of how to approach the definitions. In fact I was even hesitating to answer the questions confidently. Thanks again. Cheers!

  9. Faith Dimgba on said:

    Thanks for the distinct comparison between qualitative and quantitative Research, very very helpful.

  10. sylvia hamusi on said:

    thank you so much for the differences of quantitative and quantitative research methods, they are well elaborated

  11. jafary on said:

    thanks for the enlightment but could you help me examples of research topics where qualitative and quantitative research methods are used

  12. Fredrick Musumbi on said:

    Thanks a lot,actually you’ve enlightened me much bcoz differenciating da two was a bit challanging.

  13. Camilo Tabinas on said:

    update… As research paradigm, quantitative and qualitative research may be differentiated as follows:

    • Quantitative research is a deductive ,objective process of inquiry where the variables in study are measured in numbers and analyzed using statistical procedures in order to describe or make generalizations and reported in formal, impersonal language . while..
    • Qualitative research is an inductive, subjective process of inquiry done in natural setting in order to build a complex, holistic picture , described in words, including the detailed views of the informants are reported in informal, personal language.

  14. mtat@us imigo on said:

    thanx very much coz the article is sound and valid, ur elaboration helps us in differentiating the two terms.

  15. Archibald L.M Adjaye on said:

    Thanks a lot for the insightful distinction between Qualitative and Quantitative research. However, the differences as you enumerated did not factor in the advantages and disadvantages of both research tools.

  16. mahsa mohammadi on said:

    Thank you so much
    for making me to understand the difference between quali & quanti research.

  17. Thulaganyo Rabogadi on said:

    My special thanks goes to Camilo Tabinas for suggesting that the difference between quantitative and qualitative research method stems from the roots of quantity and quality. Qualitative research is rooted on interpretivism and constructivism, both of which stem from the ontological view that reality depends on one’s mental structure and activity (Slevitch, 2011). Quantitative approach stems from the ontological view that objective reality exist independently of human perception (Slevitch, 2011).

    Slevitch, L. (2011). Qualitative and quantitative methodologies compared: Ontological and Epistemological Perspectives. Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality and Tourism, 12, 73-81. doi: 10.1080/1528008X.2011.541810

  18. özlem güre on said:

    thank you, it was quite useful to understand differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods.

  19. Jeorge R. Punto on said:

    Thank you so much. Now I truly understood what this two types of research mean about.

  20. Adil Ahmed on said:

    Thanks really great.
    In other words ..Qualitative research is inductive , descriptive research, how ever some researcher use both inductive and deductive depends on the nature and purpose of the research ( the hyposis you intend to examine). Where quantitive research is statistical numerical based research (empirical).

  21. raman on said:

    there is a claim that qualitative methods are no well suited for testing hypotheses.discuss this claim providing examples to support your discussion about whether you believe the claim is true or false.

  22. Kuku Aili on said:

    Wow! the definitions, differences, examples and comments posted are constructive, valuable and skilfully worded! Keep it up GOOD people!

  23. Isaac Inkabi on said:

    I am grateful about how qualitative and quantitative differences have been defined in the research field.

  24. Lebaka Paseka on said:

    Thank you very much for the difference of quantitative and qualitative research methods they are well elaborated.

  25. Fayaz Amiri on said:

    I am Wondering to know the difference of how they conduct interview in both Qualitative and Quantitative methods what are the difference in conducting such interviews or Focus groups?