You might have heard the terminology of Qualitative and Quantitative Research. However, in this article, this difference will be elaborated more in details and hopefully it can provide useful information.

The qualitative and quantitative research are the type of the research. Referring to its etymology, the qualitative is derived from the word of quality, while the quantitative is derived from the word of quantity. So, what does it mean actually?

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To answer that question, let us see this from several aspects which will describe below.

Different Aspects Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

  1. Different of purpose
  • The purpose of qualitative research is to understand the subject. It is an explorative study to unveil the meaning of something or subject for the respondents.
  • The purpose of quantitative research is to measure things. It is a benchmarking study which compare some subjects according to certain criteria or parameter. It is the one that looks to quantify a problem which often involves statistical analysis since it requires significant attention to the measurement of market phenomena
  1. Different of information provided
  • Qualitative research provides the information about feelings, imagination, attitude, and behavior of the respondents towards something or subject. It is focused on descriptive words and symbols.
  • Quantitative research provides numbers, statistics, % of respondents who likes/dislikes, agree/not agree, willing/not willing, ranking, etc.
  1. Different of questions
  • Questions which are commonly used in qualitative research: What, Why and How? It is normally an open-ended question to explore and clarify the answer of the respondents.
  • Questions which are commonly use in quantitative research: What, How many, How often? It is normally a closed-ended question which provide multiple choice answer.
  1. Difference in the scale of numbers used
  • Qualitative research usually involves small numbers of respondent.
  • Quantitative research usually involves large numbers of respondent and statistically meaningful to ensure the result is reproducible.
  1. Different of samples involved
  • The samples of respondents which involved in the qualitative research is not necessarily representing the portion of the population or group but more important to represent the sphere of influence among the population or group.
  • The sample of respondents which involved in the quantitative research should be representative according to the portion of the population or group.
  1. Different of the questionnaires
  • Qualitative research commonly uses a less structured questionnaire. It is more applied as discussion guide which is quite flexible to modify during the interview/discussion with the respondents if it helps to explore or clarify the answers of the respondent. It usually involves questioning consumers about their product or service consumption experiences or observing them in a marketing setting
  • Quantitative research commonly uses a structured questionnaire. It is not allowed to modify the question during the interview or discussion.
  1. Different of the data collection technique
  • The data collection methods used in the qualitative research include in-depth interviews, focus groups, bulletin boards, uninterrupted observation, and ethnographic participation/observation.
  • The data collection methods used in the quantitative research include data through audits, points of purchase (purchase transactions), surveys in different modalities (online, phone, paper), and click-streams.
  1. Difference in the analysis
  • The analysis in qualitative research is done by the researcher based on the comments and answers of the respondents. The analysis is subjective and will depend on the experience and knowledge of the researcher.
  • The analysis in the quantitative research is a standardized analysis done by the computer program. It is involved statistics methodology and formulated according to the type of analysis.
  1. Difference in the cost
  • The cost in qualitative research could varied greatly. It is depending on the complexity of the subjects or it is depending on the role of the respondents (lay people, expert, VIP or VVIP).
  • The cost in quantitative research generally is more expensive compare to qualitative research. This is because it involves large numbers of samples/respondents which reflect to higher resources required.
  1. Difference in the stage of product life cycle
  • Qualitative research usually conducted in the ideation or product development stage. It is used to exploring the creative idea, developing new product idea, positioning idea, or developing marketing attributes.
  • Quantitative research usually conducted in the launch, growth, and post marketing stage. It is used to monitor the usage and awareness, estimate the market potential, market segmentation studies, or market trend analysis.
  1. Difference in the conclusion
  • Qualitative research is not intended to make conclusion. It is more intended to unveil the meaning and understanding towards something or subjects.
  • Quantitative research is a valid basis or reference to make conclusion or decision making. It is designed based on certain statistical methodology to ensure that the result can represent the population or group.

Specific Difference Based on the Business Needs

These differences between qualitative and quantitative research should not make us in a complication to understand it for the applied research such as market research.

In the end, the research activity is to help us to get the answer about something that we do not have knowledge about it before or to prove our hypotheses on something and guide us in the decision making.

Please refer to my other articles entitled A Simplified Market Research Method and How to Formulate a Market Research Brief? that will help you to get the introduction to market research method and what should be done to get it successfully in answering the business needs by doing a market research.

Now, let us see the application of the qualitative and quantitative research based on your business needs which describe below.

The abbreviation of QUAL means Qualitative research while QUAN means Quantitative research.

  1. Need in-depth information about something/subject (QUAL)
  2. Need to measure or rate many variables (QUAN)
  3. Need to probe sensitive issue (QUAL)
  4. Need to discuss complex technical issue (QUAL)
  5. Need to present visual material/symbol and to get the feelings (QUAL)
  6. Need to generate ideas (QUAL)
  7. Need a large response base for validation (QUAN)
  8. Need to take small sample from the group/population/universe for a research (QUAL)
  9. Need to ensure contact with right person (QUAL)
  10. Need to get fast turnaround result (QUAN)t

As you can see from above description, the application of qualitative research is many. These needs are all related to the need of knowing, exploring, unveiling, and understanding towards something, topic, or subject.

While the quantitative research is mainly to answer the needs of measuring, tracking, benchmarking of subjects, products, companies, towards certain criteria such as satisfaction criteria, performance criteria, and ranking.

The Role of Research Interviewer and Analyst in Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Between the two types of research, qualitative and quantitative, the role of research analyst and expert is also different.

In the qualitative research, as mentioned earlier, the questionnaire being used is less structured and it is mostly an open-ended question.

Therefore, the role of a research interviewer is extremely important because he/she should be able to explore the answers or response given by the respondents. To do that, the research interviewer needs to have sufficient knowledge in the topics being discussed. It is human that when somebody is being asked to answer a question, he/she will give short answer or comment. While to get a good understanding on something, it is required to get comprehensive explanation from the respondent especially if they are the subject matter expert. So, if the research interviewer could not facilitate the discussion accordingly, then the objective of the research could not be fulfilled or completed.

The role of analyst or report writer in a qualitative research is also extremely important. Usually, the analyst or report writer is the same person as the research interviewer himself/herself. Why is it like that? It is because the analyst or report writer should be fully involved during the interview or discussion with the respondent. However, if the interview and discussion sessions are recorded in audio- or audio-visual format, the analyst or report writer can still do his work without involving in all interviews.

While in a quantitative research, as also mentioned earlier, the questionnaire being used is commonly a structured one and it is mostly a close-ended question. Usually, the fieldwork in a quantitative research will involve many interviewers, so the structured questionnaire is also to ensure that the interviews are uniformly carried-out according to the list of questions. Unlike the qualitative research, the interviewer in the quantitative research should stick on the structured questionnaire and they are not allowed to make any modification of questions during the interview sessions.

The role of analyst or report writer in a quantitative research will be more focusing on analyzing the numbers i.e., frequency or number of responses, the mean score, average score, rating score, ranking and some other numerical analysis. The analyst should also understand the statistical methods which are commonly used in the market research.

Usually, the analyst or report writer in a quantitative research will get the data in tables or charts which is provided by the EDP (electronic data processing) team based on the data input from the questionnaires.

Combined Application of Qualitative and Quantitative Research

In a full research project, the qualitative and quantitative research can be applied altogether. For example, the qualitative research is conducted to explore or to generate ideas about new product or innovation. It is also to explore the potential marketing attributes in respective to this new product concept. So, the qualitative research will help to provide the ideas and attributes based on respondent’s response.

We still not be able to conclude whether the ideas and attributes are preferred by majority of targeted customers or consumers. Although we got these inputs from the reputable respondents. This is because the qualitative research is not intended to make the conclusion.

So, to get a good basis for making a conclusion, a quantitative research needs to be done afterward. In this quantitative research, we involve large number of respondents which statistically represent the group or population of our target market or target customer. We will measure the quantitative responses for each of the criteria or parameter for respective subject i.e., new product concept vs. the existing products in the market. The result of the quantitative research will be a good basis for the decision making in your business.

Hopefully, this article will help you to understand the difference between the qualitative and quantitative research.