Qualitative and quantitative research – What is it, differences and examples

We explain what a qualitative research is and what a quantitative research is, their differences and main characteristics.

qualitative quantitative research natural social science
All sciences require some kind of research, be it qualitative or quantitative.

Qualitative and quantitative research

An investigation is an exploration of the information available on a topic, in order to obtain some type of conclusions once the information has been obtained and analyzed. But there are different types of research. When classifying them according to their work methodology, a distinction is made between two main forms: qualitative research and quantitative research.

A quantitative investigation is one that uses numerical magnitudes to express their work, by means of experimental or statistical techniques, the results of which are then mathematically representable. Its name comes from amount or quantification, that is, numbering.

They are the kind of investigations focused on the cause and effect of things, as in most natural sciences. They provide descriptive results that can then be generalized.

A qualitative research is one that collects existing discourses on the subject and then performs a rigorous interpretation. It does not require numerical, statistical or mathematical procedures, but obtains descriptive data through a possible diversity of methods.

It is the research method used in the social sciences. No hypothesis a prioriInstead, you use induction to get your own questions answered on the fly. Its name comes from quality, that is, of the attributes of something.

Differences between qualitative and quantitative

The main differences between these two modes of research have to do with focus. While both get descriptive results, the quantitative one uses experimental methods in which chance intervenes to a great extent, as a guarantee of objectivity of the results. In addition, to represent them requires numbers and formal languages.

Instead, in the qualitative, the methods are analytical, inductive. Its objective is to obtain conclusions from the same perspective with which the problem is approached. Their results are expressed through an interpretive verbal discourse, an explanation that takes into account the context.

In that sense, a qualitative research is multimethodic and it does not start from a hypothesis to be tested, but from the approach to a problem. It could be said that the quantitative values ​​objectivity (the object), while the qualitative values ​​subjectivity (the subject).

Other differences are:

  • In their methods of obtaining the information, the quantitative one uses statistics, mathematical descriptions and formulas; the qualitative one uses stories, narrations, explanations and questionnaires.
  • The quantitative one uses large, random samples, while the quantitative one is selected and representative. Their sampling methods They also differ: the first uses standardized and numerical methods, the second flexible and narrative.
  • The conclusions obtained in a quantitative investigation are definitive, formal and appear at the end of the study; in a qualitative one, they are provisional, changeable, and are continually being reviewed throughout the work.
  • With respect to type of science in which they are used, the quantitative ones are of general use for the exact sciences, while the qualitative ones are of common use for the social sciences and humanities.

Types of qualitative and quantitative research

qualitative quantitative research science experimental laboratory
An experimental quantitative investigation must repeat events in a controlled environment.

There are different types of research of each type, such as:

Quantitative investigation:

  • Descriptive Often equivalent to the initial stage of scientific research, in which the results obtained from the direct observation of reality are ordered around a hypothesis.
  • Analytics. It establishes comparisons between the numerical data (variables, statistics, etc.) of the different groups studied, as they have been given during the sampling stages.
  • Experimental. Those that depend on the repetition and verification of natural events in a controlled environment, in order to obtain generalizable conclusions.

Qualitative research:

  • Ethnographic. Based on participant observation, that is, on a kind of objective testimony (worth the contradiction), he tries to obtain conclusions regarding the different human groups of interest to him. It is usually used in human sciences such as anthropology.
  • Participatory research. It tries to relate a series of specific events to the participation that different human groups have in its sphere, to find the objective or subjective link between the two.
  • Investigation action. It goes one step ahead of the description, proposing ways to act or participate in the problem studied and often give it a solution, considering the researcher as an actor and not a spectator.

Quantitative Research Example

A common example of quantitative research is a drug testing. A study population is taken, different concentrations of the drug are supplied in determined, controlled and regulated doses, in order to be able to objectively measure the result, and thus determine a margin of effectiveness of the product.

This result has nothing to do with the perspectives of the subjects, nor with what they think, nor with who they are, but with the response obtained after the administration of the drug. Later, the results will be expressed in percentages (%) and will refer to the amount of tests done on a randomly chosen population.

Qualitative research example

qualitative quantitative research science survey example
Qualitative research can probe political opinions.

A common example of qualitative research, on the other hand, is a political opinion poll. While it also employs a random population (in the sense that it interviews people on the street), it does choose which questions to ask based on the issues it wants to address.

These questions will be answered subjectively by each interviewee, accumulating a database of responses that then they must be interpreted by the researcher, who will be able to obtain certain conclusions regarding the voting intentions of the population by extrapolating the sample to the whole.

The results also allow you to conclude certain trends, whether or not they are the ones that later prevail at the time of voting. The result will be partial, subjective, and will influence its own compliance, since the publication of the survey can guide the vote of the total electoral population in some way.