By Dani Babb, PhD
When conducting research for your dissertation, it's important to choose the appropriate methodology to align with your research question and goals. The two most common methodologies are qualitative and quantitative research. While they share some similarities, such as collecting data, they differ in their approaches to gathering and analyzing information. In this blog, we will explore the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research, and provide guidance on how to determine which methodology to use. Check out our infographic on the topic as well! (((Joe link to the infographic under resources)))
Qualitative research is a methodology that allows researchers to seek to understand human behavior, beliefs, opinions, and experiences through the collection and analysis of non-numerical data. This type of research typically involves open-ended questions and exploratory methods, such as interviews, focus groups, and observation. The purpose of qualitative research is to gain an in-depth understanding of the research topic and the factors that influence it.
Qualitative research is particularly useful when:
The research question is exploratory in nature: Qualitative research is best suited for exploring new ideas and concepts. When the research question is open-ended and exploratory, qualitative research is a nice choice.
Understanding the human perspective is key: If the aim of the research is to gain an understanding of human behavior, beliefs, and experiences, then qualitative research is one way to go.
Investigating complex issues: If the research topic is complex and requires a detailed understanding of the issues involved, then qualitative research can help to provide a deep insight into the subject matter.
Quantitative research is a methodology that involves the collection and analysis of numerical data. This type of research involves using structured methods, such as surveys or experiments, to gather data that can be analyzed statistically. The purpose of quantitative research is to quantify behaviors, opinions, and experiences and draw statistical conclusions.
Quantitative research is particularly useful when:
- The research question requires a numerical answer: Quantitative research is suitable for answering research questions that require a numerical answer, such as "how many?" or "what percentage?".
- Testing hypotheses: If the aim of the researcher is to test a hypothesis or theory, then quantitative research is a good choice. This is because the numerical data collected can be analyzed statistically to test whether the hypothesis is to be rejected or not.
- Comparing groups: If the research requires comparing groups, such as two or more different treatments, then quantitative research is a good option.
Which methodology to choose?
Choosing the appropriate methodology requires careful consideration of the research question, goals, and available resources. In general, qualitative research is useful for exploring new ideas and gaining an in-depth understanding of complex issues. On the other hand, quantitative research is useful for testing hypotheses and drawing statistical conclusions.
It's important to note that these two methodologies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can complement each other. A mixed-methods approach, which combines both qualitative and quantitative research, can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research topic.
When deciding on which methodology to use, it is essential to consider the research question and the nature of the data required. Qualitative research is best for exploring new ideas and gaining an in-depth understanding of complex issues. Quantitative research is useful for testing hypotheses and drawing statistical conclusions. A mixed-methods approach can provide a more comprehensive understanding of the research topic. Ultimately, the choice of methodology will depend on the research question, goals, and available resources