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Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Comparing Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

This guide provides an overview of quantitative and qualitative social science research methods.  The table below provides an outline of some of the attributes of each.

For more information, see these definitions from The Sage encyclopedia of social science research methods:

Quantitative and qualitative methods are the two main categories of empirical research.  

 

Quantitative

Qualitative

Perspectives
  • experimental
  • statistical
  • positivist
  • naturalistic
  • ethnographic
  • phenomenological
  • anthropological
  • interpretive
  • constructivist
Focus or Goals
  • describe with statistics
  • test theories
  • show relationships
  • predict
  • obtain a single true reality
  • develop understanding and meaning
  • describe naturally occuring behavior
  • describe multiple realities
Design
  • structured
  • predetermined
  • specific
  • contrived
  • emergent
  • evolving
  • flexible
  • natural
  • holistic
Techniques
  • experiments
  • questionnaires
  • surveys
  • structured observations or interviews
  • observations
  • open-ended interviews
  • field research
  • case studies
Data Analysis
  • deductive
  • statistical
  • interpretive
  • inductive
  • ongoing
  • searching for themes
  • text analysis


Adapted from: McMillan, J. H. (2012). Educational research: Fundamentals for the consumer (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson.

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