Qualitative and Quantitative Design Differences Essay


            This descriptive study was carried out using secondary sources such as books from the library - Qualitative and Quantitative Design Differences Essay introduction. The researcher chose the books based on its relevance on the subject matter and recentness. The aim of the study is to identify the differences between the qualitative and quantitative research design methods. The major difference is the objective of the study, for in the former, the objective is to describe and explain while in the latter, it is to determine the cause and effect relationship between different variables.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Research Designs

            Research design is the plan, structure and strategy of investigation conceived to obtain answers to research questions and to control variance (Singh, 2007). Research design can also be defined as the broad plan that shows the main features of a study. It is important because it not only describes what goes on but also determines the permissible conclusions of a study (Spatz & Kardas, 2008). A researcher may choose between qualitative research and quantitative research design depending mainly on his objectives. Each research design will be discussed thoroughly below.

            According to Denzin and Lincoln (2000), qualitative research is research focused on observing and describing events as they occur, with the goal of capturing all the richness of everyday behavior and with the hope of discovering and understanding different phenomena (Stangor, 2004) . The methods used in qualitative research seek mainly to describe and explain. Spatz and Kardas (2008) characterize qualitative research as results that are presented in a narrative rather than a quantitative form.

            On the other hand, quantitative research is research that uses a more formal measure of behavior including questionnaires and a systematic observation of behavior which are designed to be subjected to statistical analysis (Stangor, 2004). Quantitative research seeks to determine the relationship between an independent variable and another set of dependent or outcome variables in a population (Singh, 2007). To summarize, quantitative research involves the measuring the cause and effect of variables interacting with other variables using statistical methods while qualitative research is more concerned with what the respondents think and feel.

Qualitative research is characterized not only by the means of generating data but also the data that forms as its basis. These includes field notes and audio or video recordings (Stangor, 2004). Nevertheless, it can also consist of secondary sources such as books and journals. In contrast, quantitative research always needs primary sources. Raw data are derived through experiments and sampling.

            Qualitative researchers tend to be concerned with meaning. They are usually interested in how people make sense of the world and how they experience events (Willig, 2001). This means that it is more about quality and texture of experience rather than the identification of a cause and effect relationship. It does not work with variables that are defined by the researcher before the research process begins like in a quantitative design.

            The objective of a qualitative research is to describe and explain, but never to predict which is the goal usually in a quantitative research. Quantitative methods seek to control the research environment as much as possible in order to minimize error or individual differences while in qualitative research, people are studied in their own territory or within naturally occurring settings such as the home, school, and office. The reason for this, in the former, is the ability to replicate the results is the aim, while in the latter, individual uniqueness is more the emphasis.

Some examples of qualitative research methods are interviews, focus groups and oral history. It also includes ethnography, action research and content analysis.

            Interviews/Interview technique involves orally asking questions and recording the answers. In interviews producing qualitative data, researchers interact with participants to explore interesting questions thoroughly (Willig, 2007). Interviews can be structured or unstructured. An interview is vital to qualitative research. It can be shaped to suit the needs of the researcher in a way that information needed could be easily derived through questions.

            Another method is the Focus Group Discussion. It involves a small group of participants who interact with each other and an interviewer who poses questions. This is mainly used in universities, or by marketers and manufacturers. An example is a focus group regarding sexual double standard (Willig, 2007). Using a focus group discussion is a faster way than an interview but mainly used if the interaction of different people is needed to obtain the right data.

            Oral History is another qualitative research method that allows researchers to investigate events, facts and relationships that happened in the past. It relies on the participant’s memories of events such as the Holocaust. This method is vital if past experiences of a respondent are the information needed by the researcher.

            In contrast, some examples of quantitative methods are random assignment experiments, quasi-experiment, correlational research and the meta-analysis research.

            In random assignment experiments, participants are randomly assigned to the groups that are compared. It is the procedure that comes closest to guaranteeing a one-difference comparison. Quasi-experiment is an experimental design in which participants are assigned to levels of the independent variable according to a known characteristic. Another example is the correlational research which is a quantitative research method that predicts the outcome of one variable based on the scores of one or more other variables. The degree of relationship between variables is measured rather than the difference that results from different treatments. For e.g, happiness or drug abuse is predicted based on a person’s score on variables such as family history and personality tests (Singh, 2007).

            The different sampling methods are important regarding each design because they determine the outcome and possible conclusion of the study. For one, qualitative research is concerned with meaning in context. It involves the interpretation of data. The data needed to support a hypothesis or thesis statement can be derived through the different methods like interview, focus group discussions, and oral history. In the same way, could random sampling and quasi-experimentation be used to support or disprove a hypothesis. The main difference lies in how the data is processed. Qualitative research describes the result or sometime explains the result in a narrative form while quantitative research is usually tries to prove or disprove a hypothesis using statistical means.



Singh, K. (2007). Quantitative Research. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Spatz, C. and Kardas, E. (2008). Research Methods in Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Stangor, C. (2004). Research Methods for the Behavioral Sciences. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Willig, C. (2001). Qualitative Research in Psychology. Philadelphia: Open University Press.


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