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Qualitative and quantitative research
Transcript of Qualitative and quantitative research
The method you choose will affect your results and how you conclude the findings. Most scientists are interested in getting reliable observations that can help the understanding of a phenomenon.
There are two main approaches to a research problem:
• Quantitative Research
• Qualitative Research
Quantitative Research Design
Quantitative research design is the standard experimental method of most scientific disciplines.
These experiments are sometimes referred to as true science, and use traditional mathematical and statistical means to measure results conclusively.
They are most commonly used by physical scientists, although social sciences, education and economics have been known to use this type of research. It is the opposite of qualitative research.
Quantitative experiments all use a standard format, with a few minor inter-disciplinary differences, of generating a hypothesis to be proved or disproved. This hypothesis must be provable by mathematical and statistical means, and is the basis around which the whole experiment is designed.
Randomization of any study groups is essential, and a control group should be included, wherever possible. A sound quantitative design should only manipulate one variable at a time, or statistical analysis becomes cumbersome and open to question.
Ideally, the research should be constructed in a manner that allows others to repeat the experiment and obtain similar results.
Quantitative research design is an excellent way of finalizing results and proving or disproving a hypothesis. The structure has not changed for centuries, so is standard across many scientific fields and disciplines.
After statistical analysis of the results, a comprehensive answer is reached, and the results can be legitimately discussed and published. Quantitative experiments also filter out external factors, if properly designed, and so the results gained can be seen as real and unbiased.
Quantitative experiments are useful for testing the results gained by a series of qualitative experiments, leading to a final answer, and a narrowing down of possible directions for follow up research to take.
Quantitative experiments can be difficult and expensive and require a lot of time to perform. They must be carefully planned to ensure that there is complete randomization and correct designation of control groups.
Quantitative studies usually require extensive statistical analysis, which can be difficult, due to most scientists not being statisticians. The field of statistical study is a whole scientific discipline and can be difficult for non-mathematicians
In addition, the requirements for the successful statistical confirmation of results are very stringent, with very few experiments comprehensively proving a hypothesis; there is usually some ambiguity, which requires retesting and refinement to the design. This means another investment of time and resources must be committed to fine-tune the results.
Quantitative research design also tends to generate only proved or unproven results, with there being very little room for grey areas and uncertainty.
Qualitative Research Design
Qualitative research design is a research method used extensively by scientists and researchers studying human behavior and habits.
It is also very useful for product designers who want to make a product that will sell.
For example, a designer generating some ideas for a new product might want to study people’s habits and preferences, to make sure that the product is commercially viable. Quantitative research is then used to assess whether the completed design is popular or not.
Qualitative research is often regarded as a precursor to quantitative research, in that it is often used to generate possible leads and ideas which can be used to formulate a realistic and testable hypothesis. This hypothesis can then be comprehensively tested and mathematically analyzed, with standard quantitative research methods.
For these reasons, these qualitative methods are often closely allied with interviews, survey design techniques and individual case studies, as a way to reinforce and evaluate findings over a broader scale.
A study completed before the experiment was performed would reveal which of the multitude of brands were the most popular. The quantitative experiment could then be constructed around only these brands, saving a lot of time, money and resources.
Qualitative methods are probably the oldest of all scientific techniques, with Ancient Greek philosophers qualitatively observing the world around them and trying to come up with answers which explained what they saw.
The design of qualitative research is probably the most flexible of the various experimental techniques, encompassing a variety of accepted methods and structures.
From an individual case study to an extensive interview, this type of study still needs to be carefully constructed and designed, but there is no standardized structure.
Case studies, interviews and survey designs are the most commonly used methods.
Qualitative techniques are extremely useful when a subject is too complex be answered by a simple yes or no hypothesis. These types of designs are much easier to plan and carry out. They are also useful when budgetary decisions have to be taken into account.
The broader scope covered by these designs ensures that some useful data is always generated, whereas an unproved hypothesis in a quantitative experiment can mean that a lot of time has been wasted. Qualitative research methods are not as dependent upon sample sizes as quantitative methods; a case study, for example, can generate meaningful results with a small sample group.
Whilst not as time or resource consuming as quantitative experiments, qualitative methods still require a lot of careful thought and planning, to ensure that the results obtained are as accurate as possible.
Qualitative data cannot be mathematically analyzed in the same comprehensive way as quantitative results, so can only give a guide to general trends. It is a lot more open to personal opinion and judgment, and so can only ever give observations rather than results.
Any qualitative research design is usually unique and cannot be exactly recreated, meaning that they do lack the ability to be replicated.
What are the differences of Quantitative and Qualitative type of research?
Only measurable data are being gathered and analyzed in quantitative research.
Qualitative research focuses on gathering of mainly verbal data rather than measurements. Gathered information is then analyzed in an interpretative manner, subjective, impressionistic or even diagnostic.
Here’s a more detailed point-by-point comparison between the two types of research:
1. Goal or Aim of the Research
The primary aim of a Qualitative Research is to provide a complete, detailed description of the research topic. It is usually more exploratory in nature.
Quantitative Research on the other hand focuses more in counting and classifying features and constructing statistical models and figures to explain what is observed.
Qualitative Research is ideal for earlier phases of research projects while for the latter part of the research project, Quantitative Research is highly recommended. Quantitative Research provides the researcher a clearer picture of what to expect in his research compared to Qualitative Research.
3. Data Gathering Instrument
The researcher serves as the primary data gathering instrument in Qualitative Research. Here, the researcher employs various data-gathering strategies, depending upon the thrust or approach of his research. Examples of data-gathering strategies used in Qualitative Research are individual in-depth interviews, structured and non-structured interviews, focus groups, narratives, content or documentary analysis, participant observation and archival research.
On the other hand, Quantitative Research makes use of tools such as questionnaires, surveys, measurements and other equipment to collect numerical or measurable data.
4. Type of Data
The presentation of data in a Qualitative Research is in the form of words (from interviews) and images (videos) or objects (such as artifacts). If you are conducting a Qualitative Research what will most likely appear in your discussion are figures in the form of graphs. However, if you are conducting a Quantitative Research, what will most likely appear in your discussion are tables containing data in the form of numbers and statistics.
Qualitative Research is primarily subjective in approach as it seeks to understand human behavior and reasons that govern such behavior. Researchers have the tendency to become subjectively immersed in the subject matter in this type of research method.
In Quantitative Research, researchers tend to remain objectively separated from the subject matter. This is because Quantitative Research is objective in approach in the sense that it only seeks precise measurements and analysis of target concepts to answer his inquiry.
When to use Qualitative and Quantitative Type of Research?
In general, use qualitative research at the beginning of a design process to uncover innovations. Use quantitative research at the end of a design process to measure improvement.
It started with qualitative research, and became “refined” (no pun intended) with quantitative research. French sociology Pierre Bourdieu followed a typical arc to the narrative research by first investigating economic class in an open-ended fashion. Once he established what he thought was going on, he tested these ideas with large surveys.
If you know little about the topic, start with the qualitative. This means ethnographic observation and in-depth interviewing. Open ended questions are best. At this stage, you’re trying to find the lay of the land. If you’re designing a new car stereo for example, you may wish to start by watching people use their existing car stereos. Maybe drive around with them and ask them questions about what they like.
Once you’ve learned the basics of car stereo requirements, user needs and pain points, it’s time to test your assumptions. This is where the quantitative comes in. Close-ended questions are best here, including multiple choice, yes/no, or simply number of “successes.” Let’s say you’ve learned through your observations that people don’t like how their stereos require programming their radio stations. It’s too much bother, they told you. You think pre-programmed stations might be a good design improvement, so you create a new stereo with pre-programmed stations.
Did it work? Ask your stereo users how they like the new system after they have bought their new car. But the question is, compared to what? This is where quantitative research gets tricky. You can compare the new stereos on select models (58% of users of the new model are very satisfied, while only 32% of users of the old model are). Or you can compare before and after the improvement — the so-called “pre-and post test.” That requires time, foresight, and — you guessed it — budget.