Qualitative and Quantitative Studies

 Not all research projects require study measures.  Some research simply involves observing the results of events in the field and drawing conclusions based on a theoretical framework.  Others may involve analyzing data from clinics or other institutions, using statistics and reasoning to find patterns that may have important implications.  However, many projects involve direct contact with participants, using an operationalized definition of a phenomenon.  These projects require well-designed measures in order to be considered valid. There are two broad categories of research: quantitative and qualitative.

A study is classified as qualitative if the purpose is primarily to describe a situation, phenomenon, problem or event; the information is gathered through the use of variables or measured on qualitative measurement scales, and if analysis is done to establish the variation in the situation or problem without quantifying it.  Qualitative studies tend to be more “in-depth”, focusing on a smaller population but probing deeper into a given problem.  This research is often associated with focus groups, interviews or surveys and seeks to answer open-ended questions. Thematic and content analysis are two methods used to analyze qualitative data.  Disciplines such as anthropology, history, and sociology are more inclined towards a qualitative approach.

On the other hand, quantitative studies often use standardized measures, numerical values, have larger sample sizes, and analyze data using statistical programs. A study is classified as quantitative if the researcher seeks to quantify the variation in a phenomenon and if information is gathered using quantitative variables. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, and advantages and disadvantages. Disciplines such as epidemiology, economics and public health are more inclined towards quantitative research.

 

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