You are on page 1of 12

Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 1

An Analysis of Qualitative and Quantitative Social and Behavioral Inquiry

Jeffrey W. Estep
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 2


This inquiry examines and compares quantitative and qualitative research along with

their perspective techniques. The relative merits and demerits of each will be evaluated,

thus providing an interpretation of the potential applications of qualitative and

quantitative research to various fields of study.

The paper concludes with a discussion regarding advantages, disadvantages and what can

be attained when the two opposite approaches are used in conjunction with one another.
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 3

An Analysis of Qualitative and Quantitative Social and Behavioral Inquiry

According to (2008) qualitative research seeks to provide

understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviors

based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach

to a subject and its contextual setting.

Qualitative studies are often conducted because the topic has yet to be explored.

Variables have not or cannot be easily identified, and theories are not available to explain

behavior of participants or their population of study and need to be developed.

Like any other, qualitative research begins with a single focus. The main emphasis of

qualitative research is observation. The researcher closely watches ones routine (habitat,

environment, and lifestyle) in hopes of discovering a pattern. Data is collected from these

patterns, documented, analyzed, and generalizations are made based on these


Qualitative research is conducted in many different academic disciplines, but traditionally

in the social sciences. This particular research has proven successful in market business

research as well. Conducting a qualitative research on a particular topic requires a strong

commitment to study and analyze a problem and typically demands a great deal of time.

Those in opposition of qualitative inquiries find that this type of research is not

structured, or that it is too “open ended”. Quantitative purist may argue that this research

is inductive. Their conclusions are made based upon a limited amount of information
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 4

gathered. The root of inductive is induce. By its own definition, when inducing, one’s

purpose is to encourage, persuade, and tempt. When a researcher is immersed in what is

being studied, by either observing, or interacting, the prospect of bias exists. This

coercion could be involuntary in hopes that it supports ones specific theory or belief. It

could also simply be a variety of “Stockholm Syndrome” effect; except in this case the

researcher has grown fond of that in which they study. The possibility of the researcher

taking a neutral stance with qualitative research can be problematic. To err is human, but

is quantitative research divine?

Qualitative research’s counterpart, quantitative research is based on traditional scientific

methods that produce numerical data. This data then is used in an attempt to establish

associations between two or more variables.

Quantitative research is deductive reasoning that is born of a thesis. It is narrow in scope,

and either supports a hypothesis, rejects it, or it can be inconclusive. The outcome is

measurable and replicable, allegedly loosing the prospect of subjectivity. The ability to

measure is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental

connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative


Whereas qualitative research has not been explored, the basis of quantitative research is

that it has. The ability to quantify is lost if statistics in some form are not known prior to

beginning research. This fact alone makes quantitative research appropriate only when
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 5

specific issues to be tested and researched are known. Quantitative research would not be

appropriate in the initial learning phase, and wouldn’t be the chosen method to develop

creative ideas. It is a means of evaluation, not generation.


Rather than discuss a specific method, this inquiry will cover a few different methods

from both qualitative and quantitative research.

Starting with qualitative, there are a wide variety of methods that are utilized in

qualitative measurement. The methods are largely limited by the imagination of the

researcher. Here are a few of the more common methods.

Participant Observation: This method requires that the researcher become an actual

participant in that which is being observed. There are typically set guidelines that discuss

how the participant may interact as a participant, the collection and storage of field notes,

and the analysis of field data. Participant observation often requires months or years of

intensive work because the researcher needs to become accepted as a natural part of the

culture in order to assure that the observations are of the natural phenomenon.
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 6

Direct Observation: Direct observation, just as it sounds, requires that the researcher

simply observes and doesn't become a participant in that which is being observed.

It is in the scientists’ best interest to be unobtrusive and impartial so as not to bias

the observations. From these observations, the researcher then collects and records


Interviewing: Interviewing involves direct interaction between the researcher and a

respondent or group. Although the researcher may have some initial guiding

questions or core concepts to ask, there is no formal, structured protocol. The

interviewer typically goes with the flow of the conversation. This is considered a

useful tool to broadly explore a topic, but that data collected is usually difficult to


Quantitative research is generally made using typical time tested scientific methods,

which include:

• The generation of models, theories and hypotheses

• The development of instruments and methods for measurement

• The development of instruments and methods for measurement

• Experimental control and manipulation of variables

• Collection of empirical data

• Modeling and analysis of data

• Evaluation of results


Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 7

An attempt by the researcher to maintain control over all factors that may affect the result

of an experiment. In doing this, the researcher attempts to determine or predict what may


Experimental Design

This consists of a blueprint of a particular procedure that enables the researcher to test his

hypothesis by reaching logical conclusions about relationships between independent and

dependent variables.

Empirical method

This refers to the collection of data. The data collected is used to base a theory or derive a

scientific conclusion.

The primary disadvantage of quantitative research is that issues are only measured if they
are known prior to the beginning of the survey (and, therefore, have been incorporated
into the

• The issues to be tested are known

• The language used by consumers to describe these issues is known


When it comes to conducting Qualitative and Quantitative research, we can logically

conclude that both are dependant on one another. Qualitative research enables us to

quantify a daydream while quantitative research confirms the potential of those

Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 8

All quantitative research was previously a qualitative endeavor. In the same respect, all

qualitative research can be legitimized with quantitative backing. Both methods are


I would imagine that it is very difficult to be completely objective when conducting

research; both quantitative and qualitative, but more so qualitative. Every human being

has certain predispositions and prejudice based on their upbringing, education and life


A typical problem involving research especially that gleaned from a human subject is the

potential for error. We have to trust the data that is procured from the subject is

absolutely true and free of inconsistencies that can skew precious data. The way to reduce

this error is to increase the sample size, but there will almost always be a 00.5 (5%, 1 in

20) probability that the data is incorrect. Generally 5% is considered acceptable as a


While any statistics gathered during research is undeniably helpful, one could assume

that portions cannot be completely relied upon. So it would seem that not only the

research itself, but the interpretation of the results cannot be taken as the complete truth

due to not only acceptable variance, but latent subjectivity on both sides of the research.
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 9


American Psychological Association. (2001). Publication Manual (5th ed.). ISBN


"Qualitative research." A Dictionary of Nursing. 2008. Retrieved May 11, 2010 from

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks,

CA: SAGE Publications.

Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 10

Online resource (2010) retrieved from

Online resource (2007) retrieved from


Appendix A

Characteristics of quantitative and qualitative research

Quantitative Qualitative
Systematic in its approach Systematic in its approach
Objective Subjective
Deductive Inductive
Data in the form of numbers Data in the form of words
All aspects of the study are carefully The design emerges as the study unfolds.
designed before data is collected.
Recommended during latter phases of Recommended during earlier phases of
research projects. research projects.
The aim is to classify features, count them, The aim is a complete, detailed description.
and construct statistical models in an
attempt to explain what is observed.
Researcher uses tools, such as Researcher is the data gathering instrument.
questionnaires or equipment to collect
numerical data.
Researcher tends to remain objectively Researcher tends to become subjectively
separated from the subject matter. immersed in the subject matter.
Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 11

Appendix B

Steps of the scientific method

Qualitative and Quantitative Inquiry 12