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Quantitative Research vs. Qualitative Research: Definitions, Types, and the Importance of the Mixed-Method Approach

Jul 17, 2020

Research is a crucial addition to the repertoire of any organization. Approaching research appropriately can help companies and industries identify gaps, strategize for future changes, and develop efficient strategies. Important to various business and market functions, research also allows for companies to acquire a competitive edge over their key competitors. Market research includes collecting, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market within any industry, and utilizing this information to maximize efficiency, enhance profits, and make savings. Research is often divided into two major types – quantitative research and qualitative research. Research experts at Infiniti Research detail the definitions, differences, and importance of qualitative and quantitative research methods in this article.

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What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research is a systematic empirical method of collecting, analyzing, and studying data. Most often, statistical, mathematical, and computational methods are used to carry out this method of research. The term quantitative is known to define numerical values of all kinds, making quantitative research a highly mathematical and statistical process. Quantitative research is used widely in the fields of psychology, economics, sociology, health & human development, and as stated in the introduction, market research. There are four types of quantitative research:

  • Descriptive Research: This method aims to describe identifying characteristics of the population or phenomenon that is being studied. This is the most effective and is the preferred method for quantitative market research.
  • Correlational Research: This method aims to measure two variables and determine the extent of the statistical relationship between the two variables.
  • Causal-comparative Research: This type of study aims to determine a cause-effect relationship between two variables. In this case, an independent variable is not manipulated, while the second (dependent) variable is manipulated to determine the effect former on the latter.
  • Experimental Research: This method uses experimentation to determine the cause-effect relationship between a group of variables. In this case, an independent variable is manipulated to determine its effect on multiple dependent variables.
Types of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is widely used to determine the answer to the question “why” more so than “what”. This method utilizes non-numerical and unstructured data, very often acquired through conversational and open-ended approaches. It is used most for subjects such as political science, social work, anthropology, psychology, and educational research topics. Qualitative research, as opposed to the statistical approach of quantitative research, is used to establish the humanistic perspective on a certain research topic. There are five types of qualitative research:

  • Ethnography: In this method, the researcher participates in the subject’s life/culture entirely. They may be an active participant or an observer. Becoming a ‘participant observer’ allows for gaining a clearer research perspective than interviews or surveys provide.
  • Narrative: This approach is long-term and includes one or two subjects. Interviews, documents, and establishing common themes to create a timeline of events is the most common approach to this method.
  • Phenomenological: This method is used to appropriately understand a phenomenon or event. The most common approach includes a combination of interviews, documents, videos, and in certain cases visiting certain places to gain a clear, comprehensive set of data.
  • Grounded Theory: This method aims to explain the influencing factors for an event, as opposed to phenomenological research, which simply aims to establish the essence of the event. The researcher builds a theory using interviews, existing documents, and a larger sample size (20-60 people).
  • Case Study: This method attempts to gain in-depth data about a subject, this subject can range from an individual to a country. It uses multiple data sources, and can be explanatory, exploratory, or in some cases, it can be describing an event in entirety.

Leveraging varying research methods is the most effective way to acquire the desired results in any industry. Speak to our experts to learn how qualitative and quantitative research can help your company.  

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Quantitative Research Qualitative Research
Differences Numerical Data, Represented as charts & graphs, Statistical and Mathematical, Large sample size Textual Data, Represented thematically, Humanistic and subjective, Small sample size
Methods of Data Collection Surveys with scales or close-ended questions, polls, experimental, document review Interviews, case studies, expert opinions, focus groups, open-ended surveys, observational research

Benefits of Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research

While each method has its strength and weaknesses, individually both qualitative and quantitative research can fail to provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. For instance, if a company leverages competitive intelligence solutions, quantitative research effectively helps determine statistical market trends, price ranges, demand-supply trends, and more. However, qualitative research helps acquire opinions from experts, conduct interviews with competitors, in-depth research of existing databases, and more. Thereafter, the most effective result can be achieved by combining the results from both methods to create a comprehensive strategy.

Experts at Infiniti Research approach all market research challenges with a combination of both qualitative and quantitative research. The experts listed the following key benefits of combining qualitative and quantitative research:

  • At the Paradigm Level: Using a combination of the two types of research allows for varied paradigms (or views) towards the same subject. Essentially, stepping away from the two-dimensional approach of one objective view towards a research topic. This in turn enables a more comprehensive approach, and therefore, more comprehensive results.
  • At the Method Level: Combining the methodological approaches of each of these types of research allows for a much wider scope of engagement. Additionally, with varying paradigms or views, the appropriate method must be used to acquire effective and appropriate results.
  • At the Technique Level: This approach also allows for a wide combination of techniques that are utilized in the approach to the entire process. Since techniques are not necessarily ties to paradigms or methods, there is a range of innovative combinations of techniques available to researchers.

As the competition in all industries steadily rises, Infiniti Research continues equipping companies with the ideal strategies and solutions to their unique challenges. Request a free proposal to leverage our solutions and gain an unparalleled competitive edge.

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