Comparing Qualitative, Quantitative, and Outcomes Research Methods

Research Methods Comparison Chart

Characteristics Qualitative method Quantitative method Outcomes method
The setting of the research Data is collected from the natural setting. Researchers collect data from people subject to the research problem (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Data collection takes place in a controlled research setting (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Data collection takes place in a clinical setting (Gaglio et al., 2020).
Purpose of the research Aims at explaining, understanding, and developing new insights through comprehensive data collection, hypothesis generation, and inductive data analysis (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). It aims at explaining, predicting, or controlling a research phenomenon through standardized numerical data collection, hypothesis testing, and deductive data analysis (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). It aims at understanding the outcomes of certain interventions and healthcare practices (Gaglio et al., 2020).
Research Population sampling Researchers select population samples purposively and intentionally select small research samples, which must not be representative to better understand (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). A large representative sample is randomly selected from the general population for generalization(Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Researchers use random sampling to get expected outcomes of a common health problem affecting a large group (Gaglio et al., 2020).
Measurement Unstandardized narrative (words only) (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Contain numerical measurements that are standardized (numbers and measurement towards the end) (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). It involves taking clinical trials to assess a treatment or intervention’s negative or positive effects (Gaglio et al., 2020).
Interpretation Researchers make tentative conclusions that are subject to frequent review for validity continuously depending on research findings development. Readers are responsible for the generalization of the findings (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Researchers formulate conclusions and generalizations come at the end of the research relative to a pre-determined certainty. Researchers are responsible for the generality of the decision (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). The researcher makes specific conclusions after undertaking a cohort analysis of a particular treatment or intervention (Gaglio et al., 2020).
Credibility: research findings of qualitative research must be trustworthy under certain conditions.
Transferability:Refers to the researcher’s ability to shift their findings and methods from one research group to another by providing a detailed description of the study population.
Dependability:the ability of research to be used by other researchers to develop their researches.
Confirmability:the aspect of research maintaining awareness and openness to the study and outcomes (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017).
Theory– closes related concepts, propositions, and definitions researchers use to explain a certain natural phenomenon.
Concept– explains the impacts of generalization on the research.
Construct-This concept has additional meaning despite its selection for particular use in scientific research.
Problem-this is a sentence that inquires about the relationship existing between two or several research variables.
Hypothesis- this refers to a conjectural statement seeking to prove an existing relationship between two or more variables (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017).
Study population:people targeted by the researcher, their exposure to a particular health condition, and the results.
Research design: the design researchers adopt should be relevant and appropriate for a particular research question.
Sampling: researchers classify data from the study population into cohort groups
(Gaglio et al., 2020).

Appropriate Studies for Each Research Method

Most researchers find the qualitative research methods desirable for use in studies that are detailed and factual. For instance, Qualitative research is appropriate, applicable during new product development and product idea generation. Further, researchers can apply qualitative research methods while conducting community-based studies, such as cultural attitudes and beliefs (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). Researchers can use case study methods to understand social sciences and education. Other appropriate areas for qualitative research include record keeping of either business or hospitals and while observing production or manufacturing processes in factories or clinical laboratories.

Quantitative research involves numerical data collection and analysis. There are four designs that any quantitative research can adopt. These include descriptive research, correlational research, causal-comparative research, and experimental research. Descriptive research describes the status of a certain variable on a current basis to provide systematic details about a given situation. Descriptive research is useful for use in describing situations such as the prevalence of tobacco use among youths and how students spend time during holidays. Correlational research uses statistical data to establish how two or more variables. Researchers can use this approach to study the relationship between self-esteem and academic performance. (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). Causal comparative effective in studying the effect of drug and substance abuse on students’ academic performance. Lastly, experimental research can be used to establish the effect of new Covid-19 vaccines on patients.

The outcome research method involves measuring the effects of outcomes of a certain health practice intervention or treatment on a patient in a clinical setting (Gaglio et al., 2020). The approaches adopted by researchers in outcome research include diagnosis, outcome identification, intervention, and evaluation. Organizational researchers interested in evaluating the population of patients to get appropriate health data can use outcome methods of research. Other studies where outcome research is proper to include government economic planning, health insurance studies, and pharmaceutical studies.

Definition of Rigor by Each Research Method

The concept of rigor depicts the quality of a research process, qualitative, quantitative, or outcome research. However, the definition of rigor differs depending on the type of research method. In qualitative research, rigor entails credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Credibility in qualitative research refers to a clear interpretation of the experiences of research participants to make it easy for the audience to recognize those experiences. Transferability occurs when a researcher is able to shift their findings and methods from one research group to another. Researchers do this by providing a detailed description of the study population by considering their geographic and demographic study boundaries. Research becomes dependable if other researchers can use it to develop their researches.

Lastly, qualitative research becomes confirmable after fulfilling the credibility, and transferability, and dependability requirements. Confirmability occurs when research maintains the aspect of openness and awareness to study and outcomes. On the other hand, quantitative research considers rigor as the precision of research planning, collection, and analysis of data and reporting of findings. Consequently, rigor in outcome research comprises three parts which include, study population, design, and data sampling. Population refers to people targeted by the research, their exposure to a certain health condition, and the results. The design used must be relevant and suitable to the specific research question. Outcome researchers classify data study populations into cohort groups.

Approaches Used by Each Research Method

Researchers’ main approaches in qualitative research include narrative, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, case study, action-oriented, and community engagement research. The narrative approach occurs when a researcher analyses data from the personal stories of individuals. Phenomenology involves analyzing people’s historical experiences from textual or participants (Creswell & Creswell, 2017).

The grounded theory focuses on people’s experiences and reactions to explain or illustrate how a process works. Ethnography approach concerns analysis of people’s cultural norms. A case study concentrates on understanding the activities of an individual, organization, or group of people. In addition, action research entails studies conducted by researchers in the course of their education to develop new or improved methods or approaches to solve a certain problem. Lastly, community-engaged research occurs when a researcher collaborates with people who have specific affiliations or special interests in research.

Depending on the research, researchers can approach quantitative research in four-way. These include a descriptive approach, correlational, causal-comparative, or experimental approaches. In descriptive research, the research formulates a hypothesis after data collection, which they test by analyzing and synthesizing their research data. The researcher uses patterns and trends to find the relationship between variables but does not prove the cause for this relationship to exist. In causal-comparative research, the researcher attempts to find the relationship between variables using the cause and effect method. The experimental approach involves the use of scientific methods to find the cause and effect of relationships among several variables.

Experimental researchers can exercise control over dependent variables but not the independent variables. Quantitative research has a common design that starts with the identification of a research problem, which forms the main subject of the study. Then, the researchers develop a hypothesis, which may be positive or negative (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). In addition, researchers make predictions of the outcomes related to their hypotheses. Further, researchers collect numerical data using various data collection methods, such as structured questionnaires, interviews, probability sampling, among others. Moreover, researchers conduct a deductive analysis to prove the validity of their hypotheses. Finally, researchers verify their findings to make conclusions before presenting their research to the audience.

Outcome research uses several approaches which include, assessment, diagnosis, and identification of outcome, intervention, and evaluation, to verify and present their conclusions. During the assessment, the researcher gathers data for the determination of the health status of patients and factors affecting a patient’s health. In the diagnosis approach, the researcher uses the patient’s data to identify their health problem. The outcome planning approach entails the researcher considering various interventions to solve a patient’s health problem. During intervention refers to a practical approach by a physician to alleviate the health condition of a patient (Gaglio et al., 2020). The last approach involves evaluation, where the researcher examines whether the actual outcomes match with outcomes in their medical plans.

Data Collection Methods and Analysis for Each Method

Researchers can collect data through active participation in the research field in qualitative research methods, asking open-ended questions to participants using questionnaires or conducting direct interviews. In addition, a researcher can collect data through observations of events of the study groups (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). To analyze research data qualitatively, researchers adopt an inductive analysis of the data they collected from small groups, which must not be representative.

The methods used for data collection include experiments, observations, surveys, telephone, and face-to-face interviews. Quantitative data can be analyzed in two ways descriptive and inferential (Creswell, & Creswell, 2017). Descriptive data helps one conclude from the whole data, while inferential shows the difference between two or more data groups. Inferential data has two kinds comparative and relationship data. Researchers use surveys, hospital and ambulatory report reviews, informant reports, biological specimens from patients, patient interviews, focus groups, and observation (Gaglio et al., 2020). To conclude, researchers use cohort analysis, clinical trial analysis, or decision analysis.


Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approach. Sage publications.

Gaglio, B., Henton, M., Barbeau, A., Evans, E., Hickam, D., Newhouse, R., & Zickmund, S. (2020). Methodological standards for qualitative and mixed methods patient-centred outcomes research. BMJ, m4435. Web.

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