What’s the difference between qualitative and quantitative research?

Qualitative vs quantitative infographic preview

People who undertake a research project are often unaware of the differences between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research methods, mistakenly thinking that the two terms can be used interchangeably.

However, this is not the case.

So what are the differences between Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research?

Generally speaking, Qualitative Research cannot be statistically analyzed, as it revolves around open-ended feedback. In contrast, Quantitative Research is easier to analyze with a survey platform because it relies on questions with specific answer options that can be quantified.

With this distinction in mind, let’s explore further.

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.

Some common methods of qualitative research includes focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations.

The sample size is typically small, and respondents are selected to fulfil a given quota.

Qualitative Research key points


  • To gain an understanding of underlying reasons and motivations.
  • To provide insights into the setting of a problem, generating ideas and/or hypotheses for later quantitative research.
  • To uncover prevalent trends in thought and opinion.


Usually a small number of non-representative cases. Respondents selected to fulfil a given quota.

Data Collection / Analysis

Unstructured or semi-structured techniques e.g. individual depth interviews or group discussions.


Outcome of Qualitative Research

Exploratory and/or investigative. Findings are not conclusive and cannot be used to make generalizations about the population of interest. Develop an initial understanding and sound base for further decision making.

Quantitative Research

A problem is aimed to be quantified by Quantitative Research through the generation of numerical data or information that can be converted into usable statistics. Within the research, facts are established and patterns are uncovered through the utilization of measurable data.

The data collection methods for Quantitative Research are more structured than those for Qualitative Research, encompassing various forms of surveys such as online, paper, mobile, and kiosk surveys. Other methods include face-to-face and telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls, and systematic observations.

Quantitative Research key points


  • To quantify data and generalize results from a sample to the population of interest.
  • To measure the incidence of various views and opinions in a chosen sample.
  • Sometimes succeeded by qualitative research, further exploration of some findings is facilitated.


Usually a large number of cases representing the population of interest. Randomly selected respondents.

Data Collection & Analysis

Structured techniques such as online questionnaires, on-street or telephone interviews.

Statistical data is usually in the form of tabulations (tabs). Findings are conclusive and usually descriptive in nature.

Outcome of Quantitative Research

Used to recommend a final course of action.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research infographic

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