Qualitative vs Quantitative Research: Similarities and Differences

There are two ways of gathering and analyzing data. There is the quantitative approach and the qualitative approach. Qualitative research and analysis usually involve the use of statistics and numbers. On the other hand, a quantitative research approach involves using words to express ideas, thoughts, or concepts.

Many students attempt to carry out quantitative research but need to improve. This is because they have not fully mastered the characteristics of quantitative research. There are analysis tools that must be used when carrying out quantitative research. Also, data in quantitative research is gathered in a controlled environment. All these are optional for qualitative research. Qualitative research is based more on the observation and interpretation of the researcher. No statistical analysis is done.

What are qualitative and quantitative observations?

One major question common among many is - what are qualitative and quantitative observations? Qualitative observation involves the gathering of data through the five senses. This refers to the senses of touch, hearing, sight, smell, and feeling. Data is usually obtained from participants in their natural environment. While conducting qualitative research, it is common to see a person generating new theories and questions.

Quantitative observation uses data based on numbers and statistical calculations. This is usually carried out through polls, surveys, and so on. Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research is usually more verifiable and not subject to the interviewer's discretion or interpretation. It is also accurate and can be replicated. Quantitative research is also consistent. Another researcher who conducts the same research will get similar results using the same tools.

Qualitative vs. quantitative research

Qualitative vs quantitative research is one way to measure the differences and similarities between the two. They have different features depending on your goal and are used for different purposes. Here are some differences between qualitative and quantitative research.

The focus of quantitative research is to test hypotheses and theories. Quantitative research usually aims to ascertain whether a hypothesis is still valid. On the other hand, qualitative research aims at creating new theories and hypotheses. Qualitative research wants to know whether a new approach could be used to interpret an idea.

Quantitative research analyses by using statistical calculations. Qualitative research analyses purely by summarisation, calculations, or interpretations. Analysis tools such as ANOVA (analysis of variance) and Chi-square are used for quantitative analysis.

Numbers, graphs, and tables represent data in quantitative research. Every data is explained using figures and mathematical representations. In qualitative research, data is usually represented with words.

Qualitative research usually requires a lot of respondents, while quantitative research requires few respondents. Since quantitative research tilts towards making a hypothesis, many participants have to be involved. A hypothesis that may affect the world cannot be derived from a few participants. Qualitative research, however, hardly generalizes, and the results are expected to be unique.

Quantitative questions are usually closed. In other words, there are options from which the respondent has to choose. Quantitative research usually uses open-ended questions. No options are given. Respondents are allowed to function in their natural environment.

Some qualitative research words include complexity, context, subjectivity, and understanding. Some terms associated with quantitative research include testing, objectivity, replicability, and measurability.

Similarities of qualitative and quantitative research

  • Though using different approaches, the similarities of quantitative and qualitative research. Asides from that, both approaches serve different purposes. Despite these, there are similarities between the two.
  • Both research approaches use similar tools to gather data. For instance, interviews could be used for both qualitative and quantitative approaches. What would differ would be the tool for analysis and data representation.
  • There must be a theory to back up data analysis in any research. Both qualitative and quantitative research depends on the theoretical framework. The theoretical framework contextualizes the research and is the foundation upon which research is built.
  • Even though qualitative research tests a theory, it can also generate it. In the process of testing a theory, the researcher can find lapses. In the event of this, a new theory could be generated. Similarly, quantitative analysis sometimes involves using an existing theory in another context. Hence, quantitative research can also test a theory.
  • Research demands thoroughness. Both qualitative and quantitative research demand rigor. Whether using a qualitative or quantitative approach, you must be rigorous, and the research must be credible.


It is difficult to determine the best research approach because it is usually dictated by your research and what you hope to achieve. The key is understanding when to use qualitative research and when to use quantitative research. Whichever one you choose, make sure it is properly done.