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Biomedical Laboratory Diagnostics

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Methods

There are two types of research methods out there- Qualitative and Quantitative. Qualitative is used to describe methods which draw on data collection techniques such as interviews and observations. Quantitative research describes methods that gather a range of numeric data. The purpose is to generate knowledge and create understanding about the world.

Quick Comparison

Research Type Definition Title Words Methods Data Research Role
Qualitative Seeks to provide understanding of experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviors based on description and observation. Uses a more naturalistic interpretive approach to a subject and its contextual setting. Ethnographic study, field notes, focus group, observation, open ended, phenomenological Interviews, focus groups, recording behavior, unstructured observation Idea, interpretive, narrative description and analysis, text-based, word analysis Subjective: Involved, participant observer
Quantitative Based on scientific methods that generate numerical data and seek to establish causal relationships between two or more variables. Uses statistical methods to test strength and significance of relationships. Control study, clinical trial, cohort study, randomized controlled trial, statistical, structured-questionnaire Begins with testable hypothesis that determines methodology. Collects and analyzes data. Can also use mathematical and statistical methods to analyze data. Measurable, numbers, statistics Objective: Sperate, observes but does not participate

Sourced from from Maricopa College Qualitative vs. Qualitative Research

More Detailed Overview

  Quantitative Inquiry Qualitative Inquiry
  • Explanation or Causation
  • Understanding or reasoning of a phenomena
  • Focused on meaning
  • Descriptive 
Research Question
  • More conclusive and pertain to larger populations 
  • Answers When, Where, What
  • More exploratory questions
  • Answers how or Why?
  • Can be manipulated numerically
  • Precise, objective, measurable data that can be analyzed with statistical procedures
  • Comprised of words, behaviors, images
  • Goal is that data can enhance understanding of a phenomena
  • Central tenant is strictly controlled research design in which researchers clearly specify in advance which data they will measure and procedure used to obtain data
  • Project can evolve over time
  • Flexibility
Data Collection Instruments
  • Tolls employed to collected numerical data: Surveys, questionnaires, and/or equipment
  • Research environment is likely a controlled representation of reality
  • Researchers collect through in-depth interview or observation
  • Collected "in the field" observes behavior or interviews take place in participants natural habitat
Informant Selection
  • Ensure sample is representative of experiment population
  • Gold standard is random sampling
  • Collected from small non-random samples
  • Not 'measureable' in a quantifiable or mathematical way
  • Deductive; precise measurement, mathematical formula, hypothesis testing
  • Inductive; Researcher builds concepts, abstracts, hypotheses, and theories from data
  • Relies on categorization of data into patterns
  • Complexity and a plurality of voice is sought
  • Prediction, causality, or to generalize
  • Understand participants' own perspectives as embedded in their social context
  • Do not seek to generalize with the same sense as quantitative research

Sourced from McGill University McGill Qualitative Health Research Group