Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research: What Are They?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 10 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Qualitative and quantitative analysis are two research methods that many professionals use to collect, evaluate and analyse data. People in many fields use both methods, including marketers and academic scholars. Learning the differences between them is essential because it helps you determine which approach best fits your type of project. In this article, we define qualitative and quantitative analysis, describe the key differences between them, list some important benefits of using both methods and show you a list of jobs that involve research and analysis.

Qualitative vs. quantitative research

Here are the definitions of qualitative vs. quantitative research:

Qualitative research

Researchers use qualitative research to help them understand how people experience the world, focusing on the subjective experiences of a group of participants in a particular situation. It's a research method that scholars in humanities and social sciences frequently use. This research method aims to discover what people think about specific issues and the reasons behind them. In qualitative research, there are more written descriptions than numerical information. Here are some examples where you can use qualitative research:

  • understanding why a company providing more paid holiday has a lower turnover rate than a company offering a higher salary

  • discovering why women prefer not to visit a specific store

Related: Research Skills: Definition, Benefits and How to Develop

Quantitative research

Unlike qualitative research, quantitative research uses statistical information or other mathematical processes to assess a situation and better understand the actions of a group. During quantitative research, researchers collect and analyse numerical data to find patterns, make predictions or test causal relationships. Researchers use this method when they want tangible, substantial data about a particular topic.

What are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research?

Below are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research:

Research questions

Qualitative research typically answers a question about an individual's feelings towards a situation or object. These questions usually start with "what" or "how". Usually, the research question is broad, so people can provide varied answers based on their subjective experiences. Researchers design one central question in qualitative research and may construct a few more specific sub-questions. Here are some examples of qualitative research questions:

  • How can teachers include more interactive learning activities during class?

  • How can the company improve employee productivity?

  • What do college students think of their career prospects after graduation?

Quantitative research questions usually begin with phrases such as how many and to what extent. The questions also show the independent and dependent variables. Independent variables are the testing variable that the researchers change or manipulate during the studies and dependent variables are variables that the research tests and measures. Here are some examples of quantitative research questions:

  • How does the quarterly sales volume relate to South Pacific ABC Limited employee morale?

  • What percentage of people working at home also have familial responsibilities?

  • How many people began entry-level positions the year after they graduated?

Data collection methods

The data collection method of qualitative and quantitative research also differentiates significantly. In qualitative analysis, researchers actively collect qualitative data using these methods:

  • Observation: Researchers observe the subjects in their environment to see how they react or respond to it. They may also videotape or write their observations down in detailed field notes.

  • Interview: Researchers can conduct structured, unstructured or semi-structured interviews with participants in one-on-one conversations. Most of the questions involved are open-ended questions.

  • Focus group: Researchers may also select a group of people to ask questions about the research topic. They appoint a moderator to guide the group through the process to enhance the data quality.

  • Qualitative surveys: Researchers design surveys and invite participants to write about their feelings.

Since quantitative research focuses on using numerical data to reach conclusions, researchers focus on using methods to gather reliable and trustworthy data, such as:

  • Experiments: Researchers design highly controlled scientific experiments to test a formal hypothesis.

  • Survey research: Researchers can develop quantitative surveys by asking specific questions with a pre-set list of answers, like multiple-choice questions.

  • Secondary research: Research team may also use data collected by other organisations. For example, if scholars want to know about the rise of sea levels in the last decade, they can use data organised by the government or universities.

  • Systematic observations: Researchers can observe participants doing an activity or task in an environment they control to note numerical data. For instance, a researcher may count how often a person checks the time on their phone.

Read more: Questions to Include in a 360-Degree Feedback Questionnaire

Analysis method

Researchers conduct a quantitative evaluation to view spreadsheets, graphs, calculated averages and other numerical information for quantitative research to determine if their data supports a theory. There are two analysis methods for quantitative research:

  • Descriptive statistics: This means the process of summarising data and finding the pattern, such as its mean, frequency and range. These statistics do not explain the rationale or reasoning behind it.

  • Inferential statistics: This method helps researchers to draw conclusions that descriptive statistics cannot do. This may involve finding the correlation between two variables.

The analysis method for qualitative research is completely different from that of quantitative research. Since qualitative research data is mostly words, observations and images, it's nearly impossible to reach an absolute conclusion. Qualitative researchers usually group similar responses into separate categories and use the data to answer the broader question. Here are some analysis approaches that they may use:

  • Content analysis: Researchers are doing content analysis when they're determining certain words, themes, or concepts within the collected qualitative data.

  • Narrative analysis: Under this analysis method, researchers use the stories or experiences from the participants to answer the research questions.

  • Grounded theory: This is an inductive approach that helps researchers derive theory from collected data.

Benefits of using qualitative and quantitative research

Below are some benefits of using qualitative and quantitative research, respectively:

Qualitative research

Qualitative research allows us to understand more about the participants. This method is beneficial for business analysts or marketers because they can interpret their target audiences' behaviours and optimise the marketing campaign following the research results. Another advantage of using this research method is that it is faster to complete than quantitative research because it usually uses smaller sample sizes. As qualitative research is often comprehensive, you can learn a lot of meaningful information through a smaller group of people from multiple perspectives. This can optimise the cost of data collection and research.

Quantitative research

Quantitative research allows researchers to reach a more objective and less biased conclusion because the research process requires a more careful experimental design. The data analysing stage can be faster than qualitative research if researchers process collected data using relevant software. You can also create data collection programmes for all projects to improve work efficiency. Because quantitative research represents data in numerical format, it requires less personal information and thoughts, which makes data collection more convenient. For example, you can create a survey online and share it with them via email.

6 jobs that involve research and analysis

Here's a list of jobs that involve research and analysis you can pursue if you're interested in conducting research:

1. Data scientist

Average base salary: $473,571 per year

Primary duties: Data scientists work with raw sets of data by performing data analysis and using the insights to give organisations advice on critical decisions. Data scientists are typically proficient in programming, mathematics and statistics, and often have expertise in databases and programming languages. They're responsible for building models and devising various methods to extract and analyse data.

2. Business analyst

Average base salary: $409,951 per year

Primary duties: Business analysts work to understand an organisation's current situation, identify its needs and create solutions to meet those needs. They're the key communication between internal departments and external parties. To understand the company's performance better, they also conduct research and analyse data to develop their knowledge.

3. Research scientist

Average base salary: $377,087 per year

Primary duties: Research scientists are responsible for designing, undertaking and analysing information from controlled, lab-based trials and experiments. They work in many fields, such as biology and environmental science. After conducting research, they also publish research papers to show their conclusions. Research scientists may also work with other scholars to develop new techniques and products.

4. Research associate

Average base salary: $331,436 per year

Primary duties: Research associates plan and conduct research in subject-specific fields, such as education and psychology. Depending on the nature of the study, they may conduct various interviews, manage data and publish their research results. Since most research associates work in universities, they also assist professors in supervising graduate students and undergraduate project students.

Read more: Guide to Writing a Research Assistant Cover Letter

5. Market researcher

Average base salary: $299,904 per year

Primary duties: Market researchers help businesses collect data on their consumers, competitors and the entire market. They understand business objectives and design appropriate research projects to achieve an organisation's goals. After gathering enough raw data, they write reports and make workable recommendations to the company.

6. Laboratory assistant

Average base salary: $202,581 per year

Primary duties: Laboratory assistants support scientists and other lab professionals to perform a range of technical and clerical tasks. They monitor and report on experiments and help dispose of waste and store lab equipment after use. They also conduct laboratory testing occasionally.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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