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Quantitative and Qualitative Research  

Last Updated: Jul 10, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Introduction   Print Page

More Information

This guide provides an overview of quantitative and qualitative social science research methods.  The table to the right 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:


Comparing Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

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



  • 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
  • structured
  • predetermined
  • specific
  • contrived
  • emergent
  • evolving
  • flexible
  • natural
  • holistic
  • 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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