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Difference between quantitative research and qualitative research

The main difference between these two types of research is that while the Quantitative is based on numbers and mathematical calculations, research qualitative is based on the subjective natureand it uses written or spoken narratives.

qualitative quantitative

Understand the phenomena through the collection of narrative data, studying the particularities and individual experiences.

Understand the phenomena through the collection of numerical data, which will indicate preferences, behaviors and other actions of individuals who belong to a certain group or society.

Data type

Gather data and observations in narrative form (diaries, open-ended questionnaires, interviews) not coded using numerical systems

It collects data that can be coded numerically.

How it is used

Used to understand underlying motives, opinions and motivations. Provides insight into the problem or helps develop ideas or hypotheses for quantitative research.

It is also used to discover trends in thought and opinions.

It is used to quantify the problem by generating numerical data or data that can be transformed into usable statistics.

Quantification of attitudes, opinions and behaviors is used to project results to a larger sample population.

Focus type

Subjective, process oriented.

Objective, results-oriented.


Selected: A small sample is used, in order to gain an in-depth understanding.

Random: A large representative sample is selected, in order to project results for a population.


Non-standardized, narrative (written word). The results are measured during the interview.

Standardized, numerical (measurements, numbers). The results are measured at the end.

Collection method

Flexible, specified only in general terms before study.

Structured, inflexible, specified in detail before the study.

Strategies for data collection

Some common methods include focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and observations.

Online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys and kiosk research, face-to-face interviews, telephone interviews, longitudinal studies, site interceptors, online surveys and systematic observations.

Data analysis

The raw data is in words. Data is analyzed throughout the research and involves the use of observations and comments to reach a conclusion.

Raw data is numbers. The data are analyzed at the end of the study and involve statistics.

Data interpretation

Conclusions are provisional and subject to change. They are reviewed continuously.

Inferences and generalizations are the responsibility of the reader.

Conclusions and generalizations are formulated at the end of the study, stated with a predetermined degree of certainty.

Interferences and generalizations are the responsibility of the researcher.

When to use qualitative or quantitative research?

Quantitative research has the advantage of scale. It allows large amounts of data, drawn from a large number of people, to be collected and analyzed.

Qualitative research, on the other hand, is carried out with small samples. It is possible to extract more subjective data, with open questions, which allows us to learn more about the individual.

Qualitative research often opens up new options and ideas that would not be achieved with quantitative research due to its closed nature.

You may be interested in empirical, scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge.

Examples of quantitative and qualitative research

Qualitative research is used to study individual cases and find out how people think or feel about certain things.

They can also be used to explore a topic that is not yet known, as in the case of a company that needs to know how its image is in the market.

Quantitative surveys are used to study trends in large groups precisely, or to measure societal data, as in the case of a census, or voting intention surveys.

You may also be interested in knowing:

Eliza Arias

Technical review by Eliza Arias

Degree in Letters (2007) and magister scientiae in Linguistics (2013) from the University of the Andes (Venezuela).

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