The main differences and similarities of qualitative and quantitative research approaches stem from their goals and the nature of the phenomenon they aim to investigate (Crosby, DiClemente, & Salazar, 2011). The differences between both research methods emerge from the basis that the qualitative research design is interpretive and humanistic, while the quantitative research design is scientific and objective (Hall, 2015). Qualitative research data also use non-numerical data, while quantitative research uses numerical data. These differences show that qualitative and quantitative research methods differ based on the types of information they can collect and analyze. However, they share some similarities because both methods could use similar data analysis techniques. For example, according to Crosby et al. (2011), both research methods could use computer software programs for data analysis. Lastly, both qualitative and quantitative research approaches are action-oriented because they can solve practical problems for researchers (Hammersley, 2007). Collectively, these issues highlight the differences and similarities between qualitative and quantitative research designs.
Based on the above-mentioned differences between qualitative and quantitative research designs, their suitability for research appears in different and unique situations. Qualitative research designs are most suited for serving open-ended research questions (Hall, 2015). Such questions start with words like “how” or “what” and not “which” or “when,” as would be the case in quantitative research methods. Questions that are suited for qualitative research studies also tend to discover, describe or explore a research issue and not questions that seek to find existing relations or investigate cause-and-effect relationships (Crosby et al., 2011). Similarly, research questions that seek to investigate subjective issues align with the qualitative research approach. This is why many marketers use this method to evaluate people’s emotions and feelings (Hall, 2015).
Qualitative research methods are unpopular in public health studies because the discipline is top-down, as opposed to bottom-up (Crosby et al., 2011). In other words, public health involves the collection and dissemination of information to the public (usually from health agencies to communities). Furthermore, the public health discipline heavily relies on statistics to analyze health phenomena (Crosby et al., 2011). For example, public health involves monitoring activities, which mainly rely on statistical measures. The “public” nature of the discipline also makes qualitative research approaches unpopular because public health requires scalability (Crosby et al., 2011). This need makes it difficult to apply qualitative research when analyzing health issues that may involve thousands, or millions, of people. Therefore, quantitative research is more popular within the public health discipline, as opposed to the qualitative research approach.
This paper has already shown that qualitative research strives to answer open-ended questions. While many researchers have used this research approach, successfully, there are many questions surrounding its application. For example, there have been differing views regarding the demand for criteria used to apply qualitative research methods (Hammersley, 2007). This is why some researchers have been unable to undertake systematic reviews of qualitative research. These differences in opinions have emerged, based on differing views regarding the relevance of outlining different criteria for qualitative research. Some people say criteria play no important role in research, while others claim that it has an important role in such studies (Hammersley, 2007). Based on the confusion that characterizes this issue, it would be interesting to ask one question – Does criterion play an important role in qualitative research?
Crosby, R., DiClemente, R., & Salazar, L. (2011). Research Methods in Health Promotion. London, UK: John Wiley & Sons.
Hall, S. (2015). Qualitative & Quantitative Research Similarities. Web.
Hammersley, M. (2007). The issue of quality in qualitative research. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 30(3), 287–305.