Qualitative and Quantitative Research Characteristics

Subject: Sciences
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Characteristics of Research

Research can assume diverse approaches such as qualitative or quantitative. The methodology applied is dependent on the nature of the task; however, both methods can be merged in mixed approaches to provide detailed inferences. According to Bernard (2011), the two methods exude differences in their analytical methodology, the nature and structure of questions asked, the data collection tools applied, the nature of data generated, and the flexibility exercised within the study.

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Qualitative Research

According to Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer (2012), qualitative research focuses on exploring issues, interpreting data, and answering questions that guide the understanding of social phenomena. It equally focuses on gathering a deeper understanding of human behavior and the factors that influence such behavior. Consequently, the qualitative analysis focuses more on the “how and why” a decision is made not just “where and what”. Different forms of data gathering incorporate “observation, interviews, group discussions, picture observation, and field notes” (Bernard, 2011). Qualitative research guides the researcher to appreciate life’s answers to questions about, why people adopt certain tendencies, why people form attitudes on specific phenomena, how people are affected by life’s daily encounters, and why and how some cultures developed. This research analyses people’s perceptions, feelings, and experiences about subjective data.

Characteristic aspects of qualitative method

Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, (2012) indicates that qualitative research describes natural phenomena in a social approach. The researcher does not alter or maneuver the information assembled as his goal is to understand why it is happening. As such, understanding a concept is tenable through a holistic perspective used to develop theories that help in comprehending the social world. The data amassed is unrestricted and broad. It may take longer to develop and fails to present obvious conclusions. This is because different people have different perceptions about specific phenomena (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2012).

Qualitative analysis can be inductive as well as deductive. It is inductive because data is developed from known theories in the social world. It is also deductive because it tests concepts that have been proposed. Bernard (2011) presents that information gathered may not be reliable or valid because it is drawn from different rudimentary sources. Information that relies on people’s memory can be corrupted as people often remember certain things. Others remember only what fails to involve them individually. The inductive nature guides in the immersion in details of the data collected. This is essential to discover crucial interrelationships guided by analytical theories (Bernard, 2011).

In qualitative analysis, data is collected from first-hand contact with individuals in group interviews, talks, and observations. It may be representative of people’s opinion; however, it may not reflect a general opinion. Small samples are often used to contain the detailed information available on specific phenomena. The sampling technique selects factors of analysis randomly. The method can be used to explore complex aspects like conduct or culture trends that need deeper understanding. The research takes a holistic approach focusing on interdependent dynamics that cannot be reduced into small discreet variables (Bernard, 2011). It helps to generate informed results thus it is an effective tool for controlling and reducing conflicts that emanate due to misunderstandings.

Qualitative analysis uses a naturalistic approach that involves understanding the real-world occurrences in an open non-manipulative environment. It lacks a predetermined constraint on results. The method is open eliminating the possibility of locking the researcher and the respondent into rigid designs. This opens up new insights for discovery and understanding the motivations behind actions. This opens up room for more insights that may guide the researcher into crucial discoveries. It also generates detailed in-depth interviews that focus on direct responses to people’s subjective experiences and perceptions (Lapan, Quartaroli, & Riemer, 2012).

The assessor has direct contact with the respondents throughout the research period. The researcher’s familiarity is critical to the understanding of the aspects under inquiry. The researcher can adopt an empathetic and neutral approach as he is fully present. By showing sensitivity, respect, and openness the researcher can report back information that he adapts with.

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Finally, Qualitative analysis is not guided by any universal rules. It is a fluid method that depends on the evaluator and the study. The researcher can change and adapt as data emerges to arrive at the desired results. Thus, qualitative investigation is cyclical and ongoing throughout the research period.

Types of Questions asked

Variable questions are asked in a qualitative study. They respond to the questions of why and how as opposed to what and where phenomena. Questions range from introduction questions that aim at learning and familiarizing with the environment. The questions are open and leave space for opinions and comments. There are follow-up questions during the research period that aim at digging into deeper information. These are meant to trigger the interviewee to give more answers. Such are questions such as, what is meant by this or that?

Probing questions exist to get additional facts by direct questioning. Some are specific and call for specific answers that trigger the memory and views of the respondent. Nonetheless, some questions are direct whilst others are indirect. Questions aim at investigating common themes that emerge from a ranging data. However, how the investigator formulates his questions is dependent on the overall outcome.

Quantitative research

Quantitative analysis is a statistical and mathematical system used in research and measurement. It allows numerical codes to data and tries to replicate information mathematically. It is fundamental in determining performance and measuring variables. It predicts real events such as price changes and demand. The collection and classification of variable features are instrumental in constructing complex models in an attempt to explain the observations. It assesses trends and occurrences allowing one to get a precise representation of the frequency or rarity of a phenomenon. Nonetheless, the picture derived from a quantitative analysis is not as detailed compared to that of qualitative analysis. This means that the last answer is an idealization of the data collected.

Characteristic features of quantitative research

Quantitative research is more scientific and specific. Numerical and categorical data is collected and analyzed using mathematical formulas. Quantitative research aims to ascertain facts, formulate predictions, and test assumptions. The method is efficient for detailed data involving many respondents that will represent a wider majority. It seeks to test a hypothesis statistically thus it is more general and scientific in describing events.

The data collection techniques employed in quantitative research include the use of questionnaires and surveys. The method is fairly inflexible because the researcher asks identical questions in a similar order. This gives close-ended answers such as yes/no and definite answers such as a person’s age or the year a specific event took place (Bernard, 2011). This inflexibility helps in comparing wide-ranging responses.

Quantitative analysis test’s reliability together with viability. As such researchers using a similar measurement method will produce similar inferences for the same subjects. It gives rise to numerical data by a standard process with obvious responses. Therefore, the approach is efficient for measuring people’s behaviors, trends, and population sizes. Quantitative research also analyses the frequency, magnitude, and prevalence of phenomena.

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The quantitative research can be performed in the “randomized and non-randomized experimental” field. It sidelines unusual occurrences and applies deductive and objective reasoning where analysis depends on facts. Data is collected in structured interviews, questionnaires, and surveys. This approach is useful where there is likely repetition of data in a participatory process. The commonality of features that emerge helps in coding and drawing rigid conclusions.

A researcher using this approach must formulate structured questionnaires that cover a greater scope in the formulation of the research agenda. The respondent generally responds to the researcher’s point of view unlike in qualitative analysis whereby the respondent’s perspective on the matter is crucial. As such, the method is biased and limited to the researcher’s understanding of the phenomena under investigation. Therefore, if the researcher is not conversant with the agenda, he may ask irrelevant questions and gather irrelevant answers that may not reflect on the direct causes of a problem (Creswell, 2009). This is because it directly limits the respondent’s views and information outside of the research questions. Outside information should be irrelevant to the course.

Consequently, this assumption might lead to elephant projects or abortion of an entire project as it did not investigate the politics, the culture, feelings, and assumptions of the people. The end answer might be wrong affecting the entire project. Thus, in most research, a mixed approach method integrating the quantitative and quantitative methods are utilized to gather more detailed information (Blessing, Chakrabarti & Blessing, 2009).

Nonetheless, compromising can alter the standardization process affecting the legitimacy and reliability of the study. Quantitative research aims at generating short quick answers that are easy to code and process, not rich detailed answers that are difficult to generalize and code. The respondents are interviewed only once unless the study is longitudinal.

Questions asked in quantitative research

Questions asked in quantitative research avoid concepts that enquire of the impact, relationship, effects, cause, and influence (Creswell, 2009). They avoid the word how emphasizing where what and whom of the research. The aim is to find out from the respondent specific answers and not their opinions about the occurrences. The questions are specific, and the answers range is limited. The researcher does not enquire information about the peoples’ specific feelings and experiences but rather the scientific data that will inform him when drawing conclusions and understanding the data. Hence the method can draw general suppositions that are representative of a wide group of people.

The answers are short, limited, and close-ended. The questions are sometimes extrapolated to fit the researcher’s goal hence one question can be split into many components to give a detailed outlook of the phenomenon. Mathematical formulas are used to relate the factors under investigation and identify correlating factors.

These questions range from questions enquiring about the age and the date when important events were conducted. Questions may also investigate important social parameters such as when people moved into a region. Depending on the cause of the study, the questions are formulated to give specific answers.

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The method used by a researcher should inform the motive of the study. The researcher should formulate questions precisely and appropriately to get the facts that are easier to relate to and summarize. Therefore, any method chosen should reflect on the true reality of the phenomena eliminating false assumptions.


Bernard, H. R. (2011). Research methods in anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Lanham, Md: AltaMira Press.

Blessing, L. T. M., Chakrabarti, A., & Blessing, L. T. M. (2009). DRM, a design research methodology. Dordrecht: Springer.

Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Lapan, S. D., Quartaroli, M. T., & Riemer, F. J. (2012). Qualitative research: An introduction to methods and designs. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.