SOCL Graduate Proseminar

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 (Emich login required):

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.

Locating Quantitative & Qualitative Articles Using PsycINFO

The PsycINFO database allows you to limit a search to studies that use a particular methodology.


1. Use the Advanced Search screen.  Look below the search boxes for the Methodology menu:

example of PsycINFO search screen


2. Select the methodology you are interested in on the Methodology menu:

PsycInfo Methodology example

Note: if you select more than one methodology, your search will find research that uses either method.


3. Search: enter your search words in the search boxes and click the Search button.

 PsycInfo search screen example


4. Results will be shown on the Search Results screen.  It will also show how you limited your search:

PsycINFO search results example


5. Click on an article title to go the Citation/Abstract screen.  Read the abstract (summary) to learn more about the methods used in a study.

 PsycINFO citation example


6. Methodology information is also listed in the Details section below the abstract.  You may find studies that used multiple methods, such as in this example that lists both qualitative and quantitative methods:

PsycINFO multiple methodologies example