Friday, August 30, 2013

Features of Qualitative & Quantitative Research

Features of Qualitative & Quantitative Research

"All research ultimately has
a qualitative grounding"
- Donald Campbell
"There's no such thing as qualitative data. Everything is either 1 or 0"
- Fred Kerlinger
The aim is a complete, detailed description.
The aim is to classify features, count them, and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed.
Researcher may only know roughly in advance what he/she is looking for.
Researcher knows clearly in advance what he/she is looking for.
Recommended during earlier phases of research projects.
Recommended during latter phases of research projects.
The design emerges as the study unfolds.
All aspects of the study are carefully designed before data is collected.
Researcher is the data gathering instrument.
Researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data.
Data is in the form of words, pictures or objects.
Data is in the form of numbers and statistics.
Subjective - individuals’ interpretation of events is important ,e.g., uses participant observation, in-depth interviews etc.
Objective – seeks precise measurement & analysis of target concepts, e.g., uses surveys, questionnaires etc.
Qualitative data is more 'rich', time consuming, and less able to be generalized. 
Quantitative data is more efficient, able to test hypotheses, but may miss contextual detail.
Researcher tends to become subjectively immersed in the subject matter.
Researcher tends to remain objectively separated from the subject matter.

Another classification is presented below:


Quantitative Mode
Qualitative mode
  • Social facts have an objective reality 
  • Primacy of method 
  • Variables can be identified and relationships measured 
  • Etic (outside's point of view)
  • Reality is socially constructed 
  • Primacy of subject matter 
  • Variables are complex, interwoven, and difficult to measure 
  • Emic (insider's point of view)
  • Generalizability 
  • Prediction 
  • Causal explanations
  • Contextualization 
  • Interpretation 
  • Understanding actors' perspectives
  • Begins with hypotheses and theories
  • Manipulation and control 
  • Uses formal instruments 
  • Experimentation 
  • Deductive 
  • Component analysis 
  • Seeks consensus, the norm 
  • Reduces data to numerical indices 
  • Abstract language in write-up
  • Ends with hypotheses and grounded theory 
  • Emergence and portrayal 
  • Researcher as instrument 
  • Naturalistic 
  • Inductive 
  • Searches for patterns 
  • Seeks pluralism, complexity 
  • Makes minor use of numerical indices 
  • Descriptive write-up
Researcher Role
  • Detachment and impartiality 
  • Objective portrayal
Researcher Role
  • Personal involvement and partiality 
  • Empathic understanding


Glesne, C., & Peshkin, A. (1992). Becoming qualitative researchers: An introduction. White Plains, NY: Longman.

Main Points:

·         Qualitative research involves analysis of data such as words (e.g., from interviews), pictures (e.g., video), or objects (e.g., an artifact).
·         Quantitative research involves analysis of numerical data.
·         The strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research are a perennial, hot debate, especially in the social sciences.  The issues invoke classic 'paradigm war'.
·         The personality / thinking style of the researcher and/or the culture of the organization is under-recognized as a key factor in preferred choice of methods.
·         Overly focusing on the debate of "qualitative versus quantitative" frames the methods in opposition.  It is important to focus also on how the techniques can be integrated, such as in mixed methods research.  More good can come of social science researchers developing skills in both realms than debating which method is superior.

Identify the following as related to either qualitative or quantitative research:

  1. A study which the researcher carefully designs all aspects of the study before actually collects any data.
  2.  You know in advance what you are looking for.
  3. The design emerges as the study unfolds.
  4. How do teachers in special education classes react to distance learning?
  5. What is the relationship between time spent on the simulator and operator error rate?
  6. The researcher deals with data in the form of words.
  7. The researcher deals with data in the form of numbers and statistics.
  8. The investigator is the data gathering instrument.
  9. Research methods involve the comparison of pre-test and post-test data.
  10. Data collection and data analysis take place simultaneously.