The qualitative and quantitative approaches to research are two very different strategies. Each of them is beneficial in its way. Attempting to study a certain issue or phenomenon, researchers are to decide which approach will be taken. The appropriate choice of research design will determine the reliability and validity of the collected data, and the appropriateness of methods selected for its processing and interpretation. In that way, a researcher must be fully aware of the differences between the two approaches and their specific features.
The two studies used as examples of qualitative and quantitative research targeted very similar subjects focusing on the rates of physical activity in children. Moreover, in both of the studies under discussion, the researchers chose to explore the issue of focus using assessing the educators’ and supervisors’ perceptions of opportunities for physical activity in children. In the quantitative study, the researcher relied on a questionnaire survey as the primary method of data collection, whereas in the qualitative study, the authors gathered the necessary information using recorded interviews with the participants.
The major differences in the approaches showed at the stage of data processing when in the qualitative study the authors employed coding to the information collected in the interviews and the quantitative one – the SPSS was used for the statistical analysis of the questionnaire responses. As one of the major differences, it is possible to point out the data collection instruments used in the two studies. In particular, the qualitative approach relied on the interviews conducted verbally and recorded for further analysis. The interviews were guided by a set of open-end questions providing the respondents with an opportunity to use their own words and ideas, do into details, and formulate unique answers. At the same time, in the quantitative study, the questionnaires were comprised of closed-end questions thus limited the respondents and making their answers more standardized so that the results were provided in the numerical form and were appropriate for the statistical analysis via the SPSS. The analysis of text-based on themes and coding was used in the qualitative approach; at the same time, in the other study, the authors employed multiple tables for the presentation of the numerical findings.
It is possible to notice that the similar problem (the rates of physical activity in children) is studied using two different approaches – the qualitative one is focused on the improvement of understanding of the issue relying on the perceptions and experiences of the educators, and the quantitative one seeks to explain the trends of the studied phenomenon relying on the numerical data and correlations. Additionally, in the quantitative study, the size of the sample was rather large and covered 181 schools and 292 educators, whereas in the qualitative study the number of respondents was 54. Typically, in qualitative studies, researchers rely on a larger sample to ensure higher reliability and validity of the results, and in qualitative works, the authors choose more thorough data analysis and interpretation to produce reliable and valid results.
When it comes to the school and district problems, the ones calling for the qualitative approach are the issues that can be viably assessed through the perceptions of the stakeholders (the quality of home tasks, cafeteria food, children’s behaviors and discipline, teachers’ workloads, experiences with diverse classrooms and inclusive education). The quantitative approach could be used for the exploration of issues requiring a more precise numerical analysis (children’s academic performance, teachers’ salaries in correlation with workloads and professional experience, the rates of juvenile delinquency in school children, the impact of the number of hours children spend playing computer games on their academic performance).