Qualitative and quantitative research are the two main schools of research, and although they are often used in tandem, the benefits and disadvantages of each are hotly debated. Particularly in the social sciences, the merits of both qualitative and quantitative research are fought over, with intense views held on both sides of the argument. It is generally agreed upon, however, that there are some phases of research where one or the other is clearly more useful than the other.

But what are the basic differences between the two? And, if you do a research study, which should you pursue?


Quantitative research is probably the least contentious of the two schools, as it is more closely aligned with what is viewed as the classical scientific paradigm. Quantitative research involves gathering data that is absolute, such as numerical data, so that it can be examined in as unbiased a manner as possible. There are many principles that go along with quantitative research, which help promote its supposed neutrality. Quantitative research generally comes later in a research project, once the scope of the project is well understood.

The main idea behind quantitative research is to be able to separate things easily so that they can be counted and modeled statistically, to remove factors that may distract from the intent of the research. A researcher generally has a very clear idea what is being measured before they start measuring it, and their study is set up with controls and a very clear blueprint. Tools used are intended to minimize any bias, so ideally are machines that collect information, and less ideally would be carefully randomized surveys. The result of quantitative research is a collection of numbers, which can be subjected to statistical analysis to come to results.

Remaining separate from the research emotionally is a key aspect of quantitative research, as is removing researcher bias. For things like astronomy or other hard sciences, this means that quantitative research has a very minimal amount of bias at all. For things like sociological data, this means that the majority of bias is hopefully limited to that introduced by the people being studied, which can be somewhat accounted for in models. Quantitative is ideal for testing hypotheses, and for hard sciences trying to answer specific questions.

4. This method of research involves the counting and measuring of communication event and is often equated with scientific empiricism. This method measures the variables under consideration and generally uses numbers to count how often a variable is present. Use of numbers allows a greater precision in reporting results. For example, violence. A quantitative method makes it possible to report the exact increase or decrease in violence through TV program. Quantitative research permits the use of powerful method of mathematical analysis, as described by measurement expert J.P. Guilford in 1954.


Qualitative research, on the other hand, is a much more subjective form of research, in which the research allows themselves to introduce their own bias to help form a more complete picture. Qualitative research may be necessary in situations where it is unclear what exactly is being looked for in a study, so that the researcher needs to be able to determine what data is important and what isn’t. While quantitative research generally knows exactly what it’s looking for before the research begins, in qualitative research the focus of the study may become more apparent as time progresses.

Often the data presented from qualitative research will be much less concrete than pure numbers as data. Instead, qualitative research may yield stories, or pictures, or descriptions of feelings and emotions. The interpretations given by research subjects are given weight in qualitative research, so there is no seeking to limit their bias. At the same time, researchers tend to become more emotionally attached to qualitative research, and so their own bias may also play heavily into the results. So few people completely dismiss either.

Qualitative Research Method

2. Qualitative research refers to several methods of data collection which includes focus groups, field observations, in depth interview and case study. Although there are substantial differences among these techniques, all involve what some writers like, Chadwick and Albrecth, refer to as “getting close to data”. This method of research view behavior in its natural setting without artificially and helps the researcher to understand the depth of phenomenon under investigation. Qualitative methods are flexible in nature and research might discover facts of subject that were not ever considered before the study begin. There are four qualitative techniques.

(a) Field Observation. Field observation is useful for collecting data and for generating hypothesis and theories. It is concerned more with description and explanation than with measurement and quantification. It helps the researcher to define basic background information to frame hypothesis and to isolate independent and dependent variables. This method may also provide excess to groups that would otherwise be difficult to observe or examine a study takes place in its natural setting and helps observer to identify the unknown variables. Its biggest disadvantage is the difficulty in achieving external validity.



(b) Focus groups. Focus group is a research strategy for understanding attitudes and behavior of either consumers or audience. In its controlled group discussions, researcher gathers preliminary information for a research project, gets help to develop research questionnaire items for survey research, to understand a

Reason behind a particular phenomenon or to test preliminary ideas or plans. This method has flexibility in question design and follow up. Rather than asking rigid series of questions or following explicit

direction researcher works on a list of broad and probe questions

which enables him to clean up confusing responses from the respondents. This makes focus group response more complete and less inhibited than individual interviews. Among the disadvantages; the quality of information gathered during focus group discussions depends heavily on the group mode raters skill that how he interpreted the facial expressions or non verbal behavior of less articulate participants.

(c) Intensive Interviews. This method is unique as it generally uses smaller sample, provide detailed background about the reasons why respondents give specific answer by elaborating opinions, values, motivations, recollections, experiences and feelings. This method allows for lengthy observation of respondents non-verbal responses. Unlike personal interviews, in-depth / intensive interview may last for hours or may take more than one session. It depends on the rapport established between the interviewers. Interviewer bias can be a disadvantage of this technique or method because its samples are small and non-random.

(d) Case Study. Case study focuses on a particular situation, event program or phenomenon and proves it a good method for studying practical, real life problems. As a result this method prevents a detailed description of a topic under discussion which helps to understand new perspectives and new meanings of what is being studied. Some problems with case studies are that they may lack scientific reasons and they are time consuming, and its generalized data creates difficulty when to summarize.



3. Ethnographic research is a special and latest form of qualitative research that utilizes one or more of these four methods.


Quantitative research focuses on numbers or quantities. Quantitative studies have results that are based on numeric analysis and statistics. Often, these studies have many participants. It is not unusual for there to be over a thousand people in a quantitative research study. It is ideal to have a large number of participants because this gives analysis more statistical power.

Qualitative research studies are focused on differences in quality, rather than differences in quantity. Results are in words or pictures rather than numbers. Qualitative studies usually have fewer participants than quantitative studies because the depth of the data collection does not allow for large numbers of participants.

Quantitative and qualitative studies both have strengths and weaknesses. A particular strength of quantitative research is that statistical analysis allows for generalization (to some extent) to others. A goal of quantitative research is to choose a sample that closely resembles the population. Qualitative research does not seek to choose samples that are representative of populations.

However, qualitative data does provide a depth and richness of data not possible with quantitative data. Although there are fewer participants, the researchers generally know more details about each participant. Quantitative researchers collect data on more participants, so it is not possible to have the depth and breadth.

Quantitative analysis allows researchers to test specific hypotheses. Depending on research findings, hypotheses are either supported or not supported. Qualitative analysis is usually for more exploratory purposes.

Researchers are typically open to allowing the data to take them in different directions. Because qualitative research is more open to different interpretations, qualitative researchers may be more prone to accusations of bias and personal subjectivity.

An example of qualitative research: Joe wants to study the coming out processes of gays and lesbians in rural settings. He doesn’t feel that the process can be well-represented by having participants fill out questionnaires with closed-ended (multiple choice) questions. He knows it’s a complex process, and he’d like to get information from not only gays and lesbians but from their families and friends. He doesn’t have the time or money to explore the lives of hundreds of participants, so he chooses five gays and lesbians who he thinks have interesting stories. He conducts a series of interviews with each participant. He then asks them all to identify three family members or friends, and Joe interviews them as well.

An example of quantitative: Stephanie is interested in the types of birth control that college students use most frequently at her university. She sends an email-based survey to a randomly selected group of 500 students. About 400 respond to the survey. They go to a website to fill out the survey, which takes about 5-10 minutes. The data is compiled in a database. Stephanie runs statistical analysis to determine the most popular types of birth control. of knowledge about each.


Within the social sciences, there are two opposing schools of thought. One holds that fields like sociology and psychology should attempt to be as rigorous and quantitative as possible, in order to yield results that can be more easily generalized, and in order to sustain the respect of the scientific community. Another holds that these fields benefit from qualitative research, as it allows for a richer study of a subject, and allows for information to be gathered that would otherwise be entirely missed by a quantitative approach. Although attempts have been made in recent years to find a stronger synthesis between the two, the debate rages on, with many social scientists falling sharply on one side or the other.

Over thirty years, however, quantitative research method has become more and more common in mass media but it is not implied that quantitative is better than qualitative method. Each method has its own value and different research questions and goals may make one or other more suitable method to seek truth. Both methods are important in understanding any phenomenon. Present time researcher involves both methods to conduct research, i.e. for data collection qualitative method is used while for analyzing data, quantitative method is used and they call it “Triangulation”. This helps the researcher to fully understand the nature of problem or phenomenon.