Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methodologies

Both qualitative and quantitative research represent sets of strategies, techniques, and processes that are used to collect data or evidence for further analysis with the aim of uncovering new information or facilitate a better understanding of a topic at hand. Understanding the differences between quantitative and qualitative study methodologies is the key step to choosing the method that would help a researcher answer a study question or prove or disprove a hypothesis (Collins & Stockton, 2018). This paper aims to explore the fundamental similarities and differences of both qualitative and quantitative research by providing examples illustrating each approach.

Qualitative research refers to an empirical methodology in which data is not quantifiable, and focuses on understanding a research query as an idealistic or humanistic approach (Pathak, Jena, & Kalra, 2013). While a quantitative approach is seen as a more reliable method that depends on numeric and objective methods that can be easily replicated, the qualitative method is used for understanding the beliefs of people, their attitudes and experiences, behaviors, and interactions. Despite the fact that the method was once viewed as philosophically incongruent with experimental research, qualitative research is now distinguished for its contribution to add new dimensions to studies that cannot be gained through the mere measurement of variables.

Qualitative research suggests that events can be understood adequately if they are viewed in context, which implies that the natural surroundings within which a study is being carried out have great significance. An example of qualitative research is descriptive phenomenology, which has been exceedingly employed in psychological studies as a method used to study a person as a whole and not fragmented psychological processes (Christensen, Welch, & Barr, 2017). Phenomenology is a research philosophy that originated in 1900 with Edmund Husserl’s publication of Logical Investigations. The design has been widely applied in research on social sciences as a method aimed at exploring and describing individuals’ lived experiences of individuals. Being both a philosophy and a method of scientific inquiry, phenomenology can take different forms as it evolved from its initial European approach to include the American one. Husserl described experience embedded into phenomenology as occurring within the circumstances of the environment with which a person is engaged (Neubauer, Witkop, & Varpio. 2019). Therefore, research conducted from the perspective of descriptive phenomenology relies on the perceived individual consciousness that would inform the process of inquiry.

Another example of qualitative methodology is the case study design, which is intended to generate hypotheses and validate the tools that are used in exploring a specific phenomenon. This research design has been generally applied within such disciplines as psychology, ecology, anthropology, and science. The case study design allows researchers to test theoretical models by using them in real-world situations (Ridder, 2017). By doing so, conclusions as to whether the developed models and theories are actually applicable in practice. For scholars specializing in social sciences, psychology, or anthropology, the case study is a qualitative design that is regarded as a valid research method that allows building close connections between researchers and participants, which would reveal essential insights about the issues to be studied. In addition, case studies offer a great degree of flexibility as they can be adjusted to different purposes and environments.

Quantitative research is a methodology that implies gathering numerical data that can be differentiated into categories, ranked, or measured in units of measurement. Compared to qualitative research, the quantitative method aims to establish general laws of behavior and phenomena across a wide range of settings and contests. This type of research sets the objective of testing a particular theory put forth by a scholar to ultimately support or reject it. When conducting their studies, researchers aim to reach objectivity and separate themselves from the data.

An example of quantitative research is a correlational study design in which a researcher aims to understand what kind of relationships occurring between naturally occurring variables. Therefore, the goal of correlational design is figuring out how two or more variables are related and in what way. The change in one variable is expected to cause a change in another, and with the help of a correlational study, researchers are expected to determine the nature of such changes (Mertler, 2015). This type of research is of descriptive nature and depends on the established scientific methodology and hypothesis developed before the study is carried out. For instance, correlational research can show the statistical relationship between low-income earners and health outcomes; that is, the fewer people earn, the less likely they are to reach positive health outcomes.

Another example of quantitative methodology is quasi-experimental research, which is unique in its characteristic of lacking a study aspect. This type of design is similar to experimental research that manipulates an independent variable; however, it is different because there is either no control group, random selection, random assignment, or active manipulation. Quasi-experimental research is predominantly carried out in cases when there is no possibility to perform a random selection or control group creation (Maciejewski, 2018). However, the lack of randomization in quantitative research poses some threats of internal validity that could be eliminated through careful design, measurement, or statistic analysis.

Some similarities between qualitative and quantitative studies should be considered. One of the similarities is that raw data acquired as a result of data collection is ultimately qualitative. Despite the fact that numbers present no bias, researchers still have to make decisions as to which numbers should remain and which should be disregarded. Therefore, the process of choosing and justifying numbers is qualitative, which suggests that all research is qualitative to some extent (Aspers & Corte, 2019). Another similarity is the researcher’s role as both qualitative and quantitative studies involve the researcher. Although, there is a variation in the degree of impact. For instance, in qualitative anthropological research, there is an option for the researcher to integrate himself or herself into the study group in order to record impressions and experiences. In a medical study that takes the quantitative approach, the research is separated from the data that is being collected.

To conclude, qualitative and quantitative research approach scholarly inquiry from the perspective of different types of data. Qualitative inquiry is conceptual and is concerned with understanding behaviors and perspectives from the standpoint of individuals involved in research. Thus, data will be collected by observing participants or questioning them, which yields non-quantifiable data. Quantitative inquiry assumes a measurable reality and is concerned with discovering facts about certain phenomena. Data collected during quantitative research is acquired through measurement, which yields numerical and quantifiable data. Thus, depending on the phenomena to be studied and the goals of research, scholars will choose between qualitative or quantitative research.


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