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Quantitative and Qualititave Research

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Research can be done using either qualitative or quantitative data. The decision of which data to use depends on the purpose of the research.

Qualitative Research: Explores an unfamiliar topic, concept, or idea. The data for this research is hard to measure, provided by open ended questionnaires for example. It is presented in the research in descriptive, narrative, exploratory way where a vague topic needs to be clearly defined, explained, the problem should be identified in details.

Quantitative Research: Explores a problem or correlation with variables (measurable data, numbers, or statistics) provided by surveys and questionnaires with closed ended questions for example. Usually uses large samples of data to warrant generalization.

Empirical Research: The terms quantitative and empirical research are often used interchangeably. Empirical research however simply means any form of research that is directly observed.  Therefore not all empirical research is quantitative.

Qualitative Research Quantitative Research
Soft Science Hard Science
Inductive reasoning used to synthesize data Deductive reasoning used to synthesize data
Develops a theory Tests a theory
Basis of knowing - meaning, discovery Basis of knowing - cause and effect relationships
Basic element of analysis - words, narrative Basic element of analysis - numbers and statistical analysis

Borrowed from the John M. Pfau Library

Examples of Qualitative Vs. Quantitative 


Research question Unit of analysis Goal is to generalize? Methodology
What is the experience of hope in women with advances ovarian cancer? Semi-structures interviews with women with advances ovarian cancer (N-20). Identified codes and categories with narrative examples No Qualitative
What are the experiences of fathers concerning support for their wives/partners during labor? Unstructured interviews with fathers (5 supportive, 5 non-supportive): results left in narrative form describing themes based on nursing for the whole person theory No Qualitative
What is the effect of crossing legs on blood pressure measurement? Blood pressure measurements before and after crossing legs resulting in numbers Yes Quantitative
What is the impact of a learner-centered hand washing program on a group of 2nd graders? Paper and pencil test resulting in hand washing scores Yes Quantitative

Borrowed from the Ebling Library