Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Business Research


A research design whether quantitative or qualitative is the philosophical or general principle framework that guides the research. Qualitative research aims at exploring behaviors, attitudes, and experiences using research methods, instruments, or tools like questionnaires, interviews, or focus groups (case studies), attempting to get an in-depth participants’ opinion. Examples of qualitative research are ethnography; where the research focus is on describing, explaining, and interpreting cultural behavior. Second example is grounded theory research; where the research centers on generating a theory from the data collected, in this case Meta-analysis and comprehensive literature review are research instruments. On the other hand, quantitative research generates statistical data based on the results of large-scale surveys for generalization of findings. It may use surveys and structured interviews for data collection; alternatively, data may be collected from experiments, clinical trials… It should always be recognized that there can be no conclusion that any of the two methodologies are better; they are just different. The main differences between quantitative and qualitative research are shown in table (1), see appendix (1) (Dawson, 2002).

Mixed research emerged from the debate between quantitative and qualitative research advocates methodologies. Researchers look at it as the natural complement to the previous parent methodologies. They defined mixed research as a research where qualitative and quantitative research techniques, instruments, approaches, and concepts are combined into a single study (Johnson and Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

This essay aims at exploring the similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research, through appraising two articles one for each methodology.

Quantitative research article

Since some researchers claim that White American racist beliefs did not decline as suggested, Carter et al (2004) examined the way racial identity profiles relate to racist attitudes. The problem to study was to determine if certain White racial profiles can be related to racism. The authors used three research instruments; the White Racial Identity Dyadic in Supervision (WRIAS), the New Racism Scale (NRS), and a personal data sheet, all were disturbed to 279 white college students as participants. They used three instruments base on the hypothesis of racial identity, which presumes individual differences in interpretation of racial information and perception of racial experiences. To obtain numerical data from the students’ responses to the three questionnaires, they tabulated the score of each racial identity subscale and used the aggregate score for statistical analysis. They called their scoring system, the profile procedure and claimed it helped to examine the range of complexity in an individual or a group of individuals more closely.

To analyze the results, Carter et al (2004) used multivariate analysis of variance to test significant differences between WRIAS, and NRS tests based on gender, socioeconomic status, or class standing and found none. They used one-way ANOVA test of significance to show whether significant differences exist between scores on the NRS influenced by racial identity profile type. One-way ANOVA showed that only two profiles (out of seven tested) have significantly higher racism scores. The authors inferred added research is needed on potential subtypes of racist individuals to help to design and implement interventions against racism. Further, more research would help in designing models to develop awareness of racism. Finally, they inferred the new scoring algorithm results in a profile system useful to understand individuals and examine racial identity concepts as stated in theory.

Qualitative research article

Dass-Brailsford (2005) tackled the research problem of resilience in relation to academic achievement for black South African first-year university students. The research questions were to understand the stressors that face students, explore how these students achieved academic success, understand how these students look at education, and how they recognize family and friends’ support. The author designed a qualitative research study on 16 first-year university students including ethnographic interviews, case studies, and researcher observations as study instruments.

The author used hyperResearchTM software for data analysis, which codes, retrieves, conducts analysis of data extracted from text, audio, or video files. Their results showed these students had strong initiative and motivation, were goal-oriented, and experienced their selves as organized, active, capable of intervention, and able to help others (having agency). The protective factors to resilience in the group of students studied were family environment that provides support, relationship with their teachers, role of models, and community members’ support. The author considered results significant for teachers as they can provide support and models, besides the results highlighted how family policies can affect children. In addition, the author considered the results obtained useful for future comparative studies.

Theoretical framework

A theoretical framework of a research study is the hypothetical representation of how the researcher can fit logically the relationships among the factors recognized as important to the problem tackled in the research. In quantitative research, it provides a schematic description of the relationship between the variables identified (dependent, independent, control or unrelated). The aim is to provide the reader with an understanding of the hypothesized relationships (Rhadhakarishna et al, 2007). Since qualitative research emerges from theory, theoretical framework is the pragmatic or almost experiential theory of social, behavioral, or psychological processes at different levels that can be applied to understand a phenomenon (Anfara and Mertz, 2006).

Carter et al (2004) identified the racial identity profile as the independent variable and racial attitudes (racism) as the dependent variable and designed a quantitative study. They tested their results for significant differences between the instruments of research used, and to relate the variables with the hypothetical framework of racial identity theory.

Dass-Brailsford (2005) selected academic achievement as a marker of resiliency in accordance with many researchers who supported the theoretical framework that cognitive competence and learning achievements in specific social settings are markers and preconditions for resiliency. In agreement with other researchers who define resiliency as a process occurring in a cultural background, the author attempted to identify family and social protective factors.

Problem statements

A research problem statement is the part of research that clarifies what the researcher will examine, verify, or try to solve. In quantitative research, it has to provide the explanation, and meaning of the study variables, and define the operations and processes used to measure these variables. It is based on logical conclusions drawn from the general problem (deductive orientation of research problem). In qualitative research, the problem statement is exploratory in nature emerging from data collection reached at by conclusion from observation, description, or synthesizing concepts from data collected (inductive orientation of the research problem) (Cohen et al, 2000).

Carter et al (2004) stated their research problem is to analyze the relationship between White racial identity profiles and racism using the new profile scoring model created earlier by one of the authors. They stated their research problem at the end of the introduction section, which provided a structured review leading to providing the reasons why using the new profile scoring (deductive orientation).

Dass-Brailsford (2005) clarified in the introduction section the research problem was to examine resilience in relation to academic achievement in a group of South African Black students. The author reached this statement based on reviewing the literature on resilience and how it relates to academic achievement, and in agreement with other researchers (inductive orientation of the research problem).

Statement of purpose

The purpose statement in a research article helps the reader to understand how the research will proceed and to comprehend the research questions within the study framework. Despite having almost the same construct; yet, there are differences in purpose statements in quantitative and qualitative research. In quantitative research, the purpose statement identifies the theory, model, concepts, frameworks, and variables with some words describing the relationships among the variables. It also gives a brief definition of each variable, and explains the units of analysis. In qualitative research, the purpose statement focuses on one concept giving no causal inferences but gives a definition of the key concept (Creswell, 2003).

Carter et al (2004) stated the research aim, defined the theory, variables, and described the causal relationships among variables and the influence of the scoring system included in the introduction section.

Dass-Brailsford (2005) focused the statement of purpose on identifying the categories of resilience in socio-economically disadvantaged South African first-year black students and gave no causal inferences. The author gave a definition of resiliency early in the introduction section.

Research questions

Research questions aim at narrowing the research topic from the broader purpose statement to what the researcher intends to answer. There can be more than one research question according to the space given by the statement of purpose. However, in qualitative research, research questions are still broad but dealing with one concept, limited to answer what and how, leaving why to quantitative research. In quantitative research, questions are for measuring, comparing, or correlating variables (Tashakkori and Creswell, 2007).

Carter et al (2004) put the following research questions; can the new scoring strategy suggested earlier by one of the authors show significant differences in participants’ (respondents) score of racial identity. Next, based on the scores obtained can the authors infer certain groups’ racial identity profiles? Further, can they correlate the finding to racism?

Dass-Brailsford (2005) put more than one research question, which was; to understand the stressors that face students, explore how these students achieved academic success, to understand how these students look at education, and how they recognize family and friends’ support. Despite being few; all questions revolving around the concept of resiliency as linked to academic achievements.

Literature review

The literature review is that part of research where the author provides a theoretically framed comprehensive and detailed review of relevant literature to clarify the theoretical framework, and explain the importance of current research. In quantitative research, it should provide a comprehensive appreciation of the research problem and a justification of the research questions. In qualitative studies, authors provide literature discussions including criticism to the body of text. In all cases, it should be organized into an introduction, subtitles, and provides the limits of the research problem (Chapin, 2004).

Carter et al (2004) provided a comprehensive literature review explaining the theoretical framework, research problem, and paving the way for the research questions. However, this section was well-organized into subsections and did not provide a clear definition of the variables or the statistical methods used.

Dass-Brailsford (2005) provided a review of significantly related literature to every section of the research paper, and came to criticism the proposed problem statement, although late in the conclusion section.


Based on the above discussion, the question is how each of these articles fits into the corresponding research design. Carter et al (2004) provided a quantitative research article that aimed at measuring identity profiles relating them to racism in a group of White Americans. In their pursuit, they developed measurable data, performed statistical analysis both descriptive and inferential. In the discussion section, the authors interpreted, and explained their results in the light of previous studies. They did not try examining a control group; therefore, they concluded that added research is needed on potential subtypes of racist individuals to help to design and implement interventions against racism. Dass-Brailsford (2005) in a qualitative study provided research questions closely related to the theoretical framework and problem statement about one concept. The author successfully explained the use of anthropological qualitative research using case studies as research tool. Their results being narrative and text in nature were analyzed using specific computer software for qualitative analysis. They organized their discussion but did not mention the study limitations. Both studies can be considered good examples of corresponding research designs.


Anfara, V. A., and Mertz, N. T. (2006). Theoretical Framework in Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Carter, R. T., Helms, J., E., and Juby, H. L. (2004). The Relationship Between Racism and racial Identity for White Americans: A Profile Analysis. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 32, 2-17.

Chapin, P, G. (2004). Research projects and research proposals: A Guide for Scientists seeking Funding. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Cohen, L., Manion, L., and Morrison, K. (2000). Research Methods in Education (5th edition). London: RoutledgeFalmer.

Creswell, J. W. (2005). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (1st Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Dass-Brailsford. (2005). Exploring resiliency: Academic achievement among disadvantaged black youth in South Africa. South African Journal of Psychology, 35(3), 574-591.

Dawson, C. (2002). Practical Research Methods: A user-friendly guide to mastering research techniques and projects. How To Books. Oxford, UK. Pp. 13-24.

Johnson, R. B., and Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed Methods Research: A Research Paradigm Whose Time Has Come. Educational Researcher, 33(7), 14-26.

Radhakrishna, R. B., Yoder, E. P., and Ewing, J. C (2007). Strategies for Linking Theoretical Framework and Research Types (34). Proceedings of the 2007 AAAE Research Conference. American Association of Agricultural Education. Minneapolis.

Tashakkori, A., & Creswell, J. W. (2007). Exploring the nature of research questions in mixed methods research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1(3), 207–211.