Best Practice Suggestions: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Subject: Sciences
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Study level: PhD

Similarities between Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Quantitative and qualitative methods are the most commonly used approaches to conducting research. The two have some striking similarities that a researcher should be aware of when making the decision on which of them may be appropriate for given research. One factor that both forms of research share are that they seek to validate or reject a given conventional belief. They both focus on collecting data that are relevant invalidating a claim to a given research topic.

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As Brause (2000) says, whether one chooses to use qualitative or quantitative research methods, one factor that is clear in both cases is that proof must be found through the collection of data from the field. Another important similarity between quantitative and qualitative research is that both use research questions to arrive at the desired solution. As Bell (2005) says, “Without a research question to answer or problem to solve, there is no reason for conducting a research” (p. 56).

This means that irrespective of the method chosen for the research, there must be a research question to guide the researcher towards what is to be achieved. According to Bak (2004), “Once the question or problem is formulated, a researcher can collect qualitative, quantitative or both types of data to gain insight into the problem and develop a solution” (p. 57).

When conducting research, a plan is an important tool that must be present in order to achieve success. Brause (2000) says, “Once a researcher has formulated a question or problem to investigate, he must then formulate a plan for investigating the matter that includes deciding whether to use qualitative, quantitative or both types of information” (p. 56). It does not matter whether one is conducting quantitative or qualitative research.

The plan will clearly show all the steps that the researcher intends to take in order to respond to the research questions. The manner in which a researcher will develop a plan when conducting quantitative research is the same manner he will need to make a plan for qualitative research.

Another similarity between quantitative and qualitative research methods is that both require some form of analysis. Data obtained from the field is always raw, and sometimes it may not make any sense unless it is analyzed in order to offer a direct response to the research question. It is also a fact that both forms of research currently have computer software that can be used to enhance the analysis process. Bell (2005) says that both quantitative and qualitative research methods are action-oriented. The ultimate aim of conducting either qualitative or quantitative research is to introduce new business processes, procedures or policies that are meant to reduce costs, boost productivity, or even increase the profitability of a firm. In both cases, the findings of the research must lead to an ultimate decision-making process that will help an organization, a community or a country to address some of the existing problems.

Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

It is important to understand some of the differences that exist between quantitative and qualitative research methods. When conducting research, it is important to determine whether it is appropriate to use qualitative, quantitative or mixed approaches. According to Trochim and Donnelly (2008), there are some researches that require qualitative methods, while others require quantitative methods. It is important to understand fundamental differences that exist between quantitative and qualitative methods.

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According to Taylor (2005), although the qualitative approach was traditionally used in social science because of its ability to describe a given phenomenon, it is not able to give empirical support for research hypotheses like quantitative methods. Qualitative methods explain why a given pattern of events has taken place the way they have (Thomas, Nelson & Silverman, 2010).

On the other hand, quantitative methods explain the what and when of a phenomenon. Ethnographic research and phenomenology as approaches of qualitative research are always important when the research seeks to describe given events. Ethnography helps in the investigation of issues such as culture, events, or behavioural patterns that cannot be described quantitatively. However, the process does not empirically support hypotheses put forward to help guide given research, a fact that creates a fundamental difference between it and quantitative methods. In quantitative studies, research questions are followed by corresponding hypotheses for the research, while in qualitative studies, the questions are related to the phenomenon which is under investigation.

According to Bell (2001), quantitative methods differ from qualitative methods in terms of the nature of questions used in each case. While the quantitative method uses structured questions, the qualitative method uses open-ended questions. Quantitative methods use structured questions because of the need to generate facts that can be assigned numerical values. This method uses mathematical models during the analysis process. This can only be achieved if data can be assigned numerical values. Structured questions are necessary to achieve this. On the other hand, the qualitative method uses data that tends to offer a description of a given phenomenon.

Another major difference between quantitative and qualitative research is how the validity of the study is determined. When conducting quantitative studies, it is important to demonstrate the internal and external validity of the studies such as the statistical power, representativeness, and random samples. On the other hand, qualitative studies require the researcher to demonstrate the validity within the specific context of the qualitative design such as credibility, transferability, dependability and trustworthiness.

According to Cozby (2012), while success in qualitative research largely depends on the skills of the researcher, quantitative research relies on the instruments used in data analysis. When conducting quantitative research, the researcher will rely on mathematical tools, and any error in the tools may lead to an overall error in the research. On the other hand, qualitative research entirely depends on the skills and ability of the researcher to relate given phenomena before drawing a conclusion over a given issue. The researcher considers quantitative methods to be more appropriate because results obtained out of them can be used to make a generalization.

Best Practices Suggestions

Quantitative research is a kind of study that utilizes figures to arrive at certain conclusions. In this regard, the research will take the form of a survey, whereby the researcher identifies a sample and posts questionnaires to them. In this type of research, there was a need to compare the relationship between variables in order to establish cause and effect. The researcher is interested in knowing how different factors (independent variables) may have an effect on the dependent variables. It demands a method that would be objective and able statistically to generalize the findings. The quantitative method was found to be the most appropriate method to use in this research.

Quantitative research involves the systematic empirical study of a phenomenon by the use of statistical tools. Its main objective is always to employ mathematical theories and models in developing its generalization. It would enable the researcher to test the hypotheses put forth for validity and allow the use of a sample as a representation of the entire population. It would help the researcher to use the data to compare specific issues under investigation from a mathematical perspective. The quantitative method will help in knowing if there is any relationship between specific variables under investigation.

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The decision to use quantitative methods is large because of the need to test given concepts in order to determine their validity. Bak (2004) says, “Quantitative method of research is primarily deductive process used to test pre-specified concepts, constructs, and hypotheses that make up a theory” (p. 68). The scholar says that this method can enable a researcher to test a concept in order to determine its functionality. The researcher is concerned that some of the common concepts used in business psychology are merely based on hypotheses that are yet to be confirmed. Other concepts have also remained controversial, especially in the field of business ethics.

Given the changing factors that have been witnessed in the business environment, it is necessary to validate some of the business concepts that have been formulated by various scholars around the world. Some management units always risk applying these concepts without having the assurance that they have the capacity to deliver results. It is important to address some of these issues through quantitative research. This method will enable the researcher to confirm the validity of some of the business concepts in order to offer guidance to managers in the contemporary world.


Bak, N. (2004). Completing your thesis: a practical guide. Pretoria: Van Schaik.

Bell, J. (2005). Doing your research project: a guide for first-time researchers in education, health and social science (4th ed). Maidenhead: Open university press.

Bell, P. (2001). Evaluating, Doing and writing research in psychology: a step-by-step guide for students. London: Sage.

Brause, R. (2000). Writing Your Doctoral Dissertation: Invisible Rules for Success. London: Falmer Press.

Cozby, P. C. (2012). Methods in behavioural research. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

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Taylor, G. (2005). Integrating qualitative and quantitative methods in research. Lanham: University Press of America.

Thomas, R., Nelson, K. & Silverman, S. (2010). Research Methods in Physical Activity. New York: Human Kinetics.

Trochim, W. M. K., & Donnelly, J. P. (2008). Research methods knowledge base. Mason, Ohio: Cengage Learning.