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The Difference Between Quantitative Research Methodology & Qualitative Research Methodology

by Arash Farzaneh, Demand Media

    Researchers are often faced with the decision of choosing the methodology that best suits their study and objectives. There are both advantages and disadvantages and strengths and weaknesses to quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. In the end, the researcher needs to make a choice of which option works best for the particular study at hand.

    Statistical Data

    Quantitative research relies mainly on statistical information and numbers. The researcher usually takes a look at large samples of groups of people. These numbers are then analyzed to find correlations among the data. For example, if the statistics show that certain health behaviors, such as junk food, lead to more cases of diabetes, then the researcher concludes that there is a causal link between the two variables.

    Data Analysis

    Qualitative research is usually more time-consuming as it may involve analyzing longer descriptive passages or descriptions instead of numbers. In these cases, the researcher investigates attitudes, experiences and personal opinions of a smaller group of people but in more detail. The information will not necessarily provide statistical information but rather give insight into different processes and explain reasons. For example, the researcher wants to find out why people turn to destructive behaviors and analyzes each participant's response carefully to draw her conclusions.

    Surveys and Questionnaires

    Each methodology has its own tools for gathering information. Surveys and questionnaires that include multiple-choice questions work best for generating quantitative data. These surveys can be administered on the street, over the phone or via mail. They usually target a large number of people so that the findings become statistically more relevant and reliable.

    Interviews and Focus Groups

    Since qualitative research is more interested in personal accounts, interviews and focus groups are good tools for gathering information. The researcher can ask relevant questions to understand attitudes and behaviors more clearly. Surveys in these cases are usually open-ended, meaning that the questions cannot be answered with "yes" and "no," but are of a more complex and descriptive nature. Focus groups target a specific group of people that are relevant to the particular study. For example, if you are studying nicotine addiction, you will talk to smokers and ex-smokers to gain more information about their personal experiences.

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    About the Author

    Based in Vancouver, Canada, Arash Farzaneh has been writing since 1990. His articles and stories have been published in "Bewildering Stories," "The Truth Magazine," "Inscribed" and "34th Parallel." Farzaneh received the French Government Book Prize in 2001. He holds a Master of Arts in French literature from the University of British Columbia.

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