Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative Studies
Certain differences exist between quantitative and qualitative research methods. Researchers use qualitative methods to collect, interpret, and analyze data. This method is also subjective. A qualitative approach uses various methods to collect data such as in-depth interviews, observations, and focus groups (Christensen, Johnson & Turner, 2011). Qualitative studies are usually “open-ended”. The researcher also uses a small sample size. On the other hand, researchers use quantitative research to measure or count things.
A quantitative approach is “number-based”, reliable, and valid. A quantitative study “quantifies” a problem by analyzing data using statistical methods (Wills, 2007). The method can be used to quantify people’s ideas, behaviors, and opinions. It helps the researcher get measurable data in order to uncover the existing facts and patterns about a phenomenon. Methods of quantitative data collection include interviews, opinion polls, systematic observations, and surveys (Jupp, 2006). The researcher expects the respondents to give fixed responses. The objective approach creates a hypothesis for “theory formulation”.
Investigating a Single Research Topic Using Qualitative or Quantitative Methods
The method of study used by a researcher determines the quality of results obtained. A researcher can decide to investigate a single research topic using the two methods. This approach will result in different findings and explanations. For example, a researcher might want to investigate this topic: the effects of healthy eating among children aged 10 to 18 years. A qualitative approach allows the researcher to use words to describe, examine, and analyze the phenomenon (Neuman, 2011).
That being the case, the researcher will not come up with numerical data. On the other hand, a quantitative approach will allow the researcher to present and analyze numerical data using “statistical” models. The researcher can use the method to expand existing theory. This discussion explains why a researcher should have the best research question and method before undertaking his or her study (Leedy & Osmond, 2010).
Why a Researcher Might Use Mixed Methods for a Study
There are certain reasons why a researcher might decide to use “mixed methods” for a study. To begin with, a researcher can use these methods to examine a given social problem from different perspectives (Bryman, 2006). According to Teddlie and Yu (2007, p. 74), “a researcher can use these two methods to contextualize observations and add in more information about the identified subjects”. A researcher can also use one method to create a database based on the other method of study. For example, a researcher might employ a quantitative phase followed by a qualitative phase during the study.
Three Issues for a Researcher to Deal with When Carrying Out the Mixed Methods Study
A researcher should deal with certain issues when carrying out a mixed study. To begin with, the researcher should deal with both the conceptual and theoretical orientation of his or her study. Morgan (2007) argues that any study should be informed by both a conceptual and theoretical orientation. This ensures the orientation supports the needs of the study. The researcher should also deal with the issue of “data timing”.
The researcher should collect the data concurrently in order to reduce time and improve the quality of the study (Kuhn, 2012). The third thing to consider is the methodological issue characterizing the study. The researcher should have a clear command of the available resources and interpretive issues (Sandelowski, Voils & Knafl, 2009). These issues might arise at the time of data analysis and interpretation. This explains why the researcher should place equal emphasis on the two sets of data.
Bryman, A. (2006). Integrating quantitative and qualitative research: How is it done? Qualitative Research, 6(1), 97-113.
Christensen, L., Johnson, R., & Turner, L. (2011). Research Methods, Design, and Analysis. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Jupp, V. (2006). The Sage Dictionary of Social Research Methods. London: Sage.
Kuhn, T. (2012). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Leedy, P., & Osmond, J. (2010). Practical Research: Planning and Design. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Morgan, D. (2007). Paradigms lost and pragmatism regained: Methodological implications of combining qualitative and quantitative methods. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 48-76.
Neuman, W. (2011). Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Sandelowski, M., Voils, I., & Knafl, G. (2009). On quantitizing. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 3(3), 208-222.
Teddlie, C., & Yu, F. (2007). Mixed methods sampling: A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(1), 77-100.
Wills, J. (2007). Foundations of Qualitative Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.