Comparing Quantitative and Qualitative Research

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COMPARING QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Social theory is a “system of interconnected ideas that condenses and organises the knowledge about the social world and explains how it works” (Neuman, 2006, p.8) and for many years scientists have gathered data using specialised techniques such as Quantative and Qualitative research to support or reject these theories. Quantitative research “generates numerical data or information that can be converted into numbers,” (Experiment Resources, 2009, p.1) meaning only measurable data will be gathered and analysed in this type of research. Qualitative Research on the other hand “generates non-numerical data and focuses on gathering mainly verbal data rather than measurements” (Experiment Resources.com 2009, p.2). In order to compare and contrast these types of research, it is necessary to firstly define what each method encompasses, then to understand what is similar about the two types of research methodologies and finally to outline what makes them different by investigating how they can both compliment and limit findings in specific research studies.

Quantitative data can be used to “measure objective facts, with a focus on variables”. “With this form of data reliability is key and theory and data are separate, requiring many cases and subjects and relying on statistical analysis” (Neuman, 2006, p.13). Quantitative research design is considered the standard experimental method of most scientific disciplines and these experiments are sometimes referred to as “true science”, using traditional mathematical and statistical means to measure results (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008, p.1). Quantitative experiments all use a standard format of generating a hypothesis to be proved or disproved. This hypothesis must be provable by mathematical and statistical means and is the basis around which the whole experiment is designed (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008).

Qualitative data has “a social reality and cultural meaning focusing on interactive processes where data and theory are fused, creating fewer subjects and cases and whereby analysis becomes thematic rather than statistical.” (Neuman, 2006, p.13). Gathered information is analysed in an interpretative manner and is used extensively by scientists and researchers studying human behavior and habits (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008). Qualitative research is often regarded as a precursor to quantitative research, in that it is often used to generate possible leads and ideas, which can be used to formulate a realistic and testable hypothesis (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008).

The primary aim of Qualitative Research is to provide a complete, detailed description of the research topic (Experiment resources, 2009). The design of qualitative research is quite flexible and encompasses a variety of accepted methods and structures (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008). Examples of data-gathering strategies used in Qualitative Research are individual in-depth interviews, structured and non-structured interviews, focus groups, narratives, content or documentary analysis, participant observation and archival research (Burton, Westen & Kowolski, 2009). The presentation of data in Qualitative Research is in the form of words (from interviews), images (videos) and/or objects (such as artifacts) (Given, 2008). If you are conducting Qualitative Research, what will most likely appear in your discussion are figures in the form of graphs (Experiment resources, 2009). “From an individual case study to an extensive interview, this type of study still needs to be carefully constructed and designed, but there is no standardised structure” (Martyn Shuttleworth, 2008 p.1). Qualitative techniques are extremely useful when a subject is too complex to be answered by a simple yes or no hypothesis. These types of designs are much easier to plan and carry out and are also useful when budgets are concerned. The broader scope covered by these designs ensures that some useful data is always...
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