Compare and Contrast Between Qualitative and Quantitative Design in Research.

It is not a lie that we look for information each and everyday.  In one way or the other we had assumed the role of a researcher conscious or unconscious.  In this paper, the author will compare and contrast between qualitative and quantitative designs in research.
Before attempting answering the question, the author will attempt to answer the following terms:  research, qualitative and quantitative research.  Hughes C (2000; 3) defines research as ‘a systematic investigation to find answers to a problem’.  The Random Home Webster’s College Dictionary defines research as ‘diligent and systematic inquiry into a subject in order to discover or receive facts, theories etc.  The author defines research as the thing we do when we want to find something.  Turning to the term quantitative research method, Henninger (2009;1) defines quantitative designs as a research which ‘focuses on numbers or quantities’  Madrigral and McClain also says ‘quantitative studies provide data that can be expressed in numbers – thus, their name.  Because the data is in a numeric form, we can apply statistical tests in making statements about the data’.  On the other hand, ‘qualitative studies describe the qualities or characteristics of something’.  Just as the name suggests, qualitative research studies can provide you with details about human behavior, emotion, and personality characteristics that quantitative studies cannot match.

 Mahoney and Goetz (2006:231) says the quantitative and qualitative designs compliment each other:
“We believe that both approaches are of value.  In fact, they complement each other.  Ideally, an explanation of an outcome in one or a small number of cases leads one to wonder if the same factors are at work when a broader understanding of scope is adopted, stimulating a larger – N analysis in which the goal is less to explain particular cases and more and more to estimate average effects”
When the statistical results about the effects of causes are reported, one would want to compare the results in terms of the history of individual cases.  The complementarily is one reason why mixed method research is possible.  George and Bennett (2005)

Hughes C (2000; 6-8) argues that though perceived as different, they are similar in nature.  She says whilst qualitative research may be mostly used for testing theory it can also be used for exploring an area and generating hypothesis and theory and similarly qualitative research can be used for testing hypotheses and theories even though it is mostly used for theory generation.
She goes on to say qualitative data often includes quantification (e.g statements such as move than, less than, most as well as specific numbers).  Quantitative (i.e. questionnaire) approaches can collect qualitative data through open ended questions.  She also says the underlying philosophical positions are not necessary as distinct as the stereotypes suggest.

Hughes suggest that there are eleven ways of combining the qualitative and quantitative approaches alluding to Mahoney and Goertz (2006;23) who says the two approaches compliment each other.  Hughes says, the findings from one type of study can be checked against the findings deriving from the other type.  For example the results of a qualitative investigation might be checked against a qualitative study.

Hughes C (2000) goes on to say qualitative research facilitates quantitative research and vice-versa.  Qualitative research may; help to provide background information on context and subject; act as a source of hypotheses; aid scale construction while qualitative research helps with the choice of subjects for a qualitative research.

Qualitative and quantitative researches are combined in order to provide a general picture.  Quantitative research may be employed to plug the gaps in a qualitative study which arise because, for example the researcher cannot be in more that one place at any one time.  Or if not all issues are amenable solely to a qualitative investigation.

Employing both qualitative and qualitative research may provide a means of bridging the macro-micro gulf.  Qualitative research can tap large-scale structural features of social life while qualitative research tends to address small-scale behavioral aspects.

Though the two approaches can compliment each other there are  clear differences between them.  Henninger (2009;1) says quantitative research focuses on numbers and quantities.  Quantitative studies have results that are based on numeric analysis and statistics. Often, these studies have many participants.  On the other hand qualitative research studies are focused on differences in quality, rather differences in quality.  Results are in words on pictures rather than numbers.  Qualitative studies usually have fewer participants.

SEEP-AIMS (2000;3-4) says the qualitative approach tends to have open-ended questions and probing yield detailed information that illuminates nuances and highlights diversity while the quantitative approach tends to have specific questions obtain predetermined responses to standardized questions.

The document by (SEEP-AIMS 2000;3-4) goes on to say in qualitative approach, data collection techniques vary while the quantitative approach relies on surveys as the main method of data collection.  The control group is not required in a qualitative approach but contract or comparison groups are required to determine program impact in a quantitative approach. The qualitative approach is more suitable when time and resources are limited while the quantitative approach relies on more extensive interviewing.

Mahoney and Goertz (2006;229) contrasts the two approach as follows.  The two approach is different approaches to explanation, the qualitative approach takes the “causes-of-effects”  approach while the quantitative takes the “effects-of-causes approach”.
The qualitative approach, on conceptions of causation, says that there should be necessary and sufficient causes; (mathematical logic) for something to happen.  Thus, with the causation approach, scholars seek to identify combination of variable values that are sufficient for outcomes of interest.  However, the quantitative approach, on the conceptions of causation, says there is a co relational causes, it believes on probability or statistical theory.  Mohaney and Goertz (2006; 229).

Mahoney and Goertz (2006; 229) goes on to say the qualitative approach adopt a narrow scope to avoid causal heterogeneity but the quantitative approach adopt a broad scope to maximize statistical leverage and generalization.
The author in an attempt to compare and contrast qualitative and quantitative methods of research had shown that both qualitative and quantitative methods of user research play important roles in product development.  Data from qualitative research such as market size, demographics, and user preferences-provides important information for business decisions.  Qualitative research provides valuable data for use in the design of a product-including data about user needs, behavior patterns, and use cases.  Each of these approaches has strengths and weaknesses, and each can benefit from our combining them with one another.

Madrigal D. and McClain B, 2012, Strength and weakness of Quantitative and Qualitative Research
Mahoney J. and Goertz, 2006, A Tale of Two Cultures: Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research, Department of Political Science, University of Arizona, USA
SEE-AIMS, 2000, Differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods, Aims/Management Systems International, Washington DC, USA
Hughes C, Qualitatve and Quantitative Approaches to social Research
Henninger E, Yahoo! Contributor Network, 2009, What is the Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research.

Etiwel Mutero holds a Bsc Honours Degree in Records and Archives Management from the Zimbabwe Open University.Do you want assistance in writing your college or university assignment? You can contact Etiwel Mutero on 0773614293 or

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