Quantitative and qualitative research are complementary methods that you can combine in your surveys in order to obtain representative and detailed results.
Simply put, quantitative data provides you with the figures that demonstrate the general points of your research. Instead, qualitative data gives you the detailed information you need to understand its consequences.
To get better results in your survey from the implementation of these methods, it is important that you understand the difference between them.
Differences between quantitative and qualitative research
What is quantitative research?
Quantitative research is one that uses quantitative data to gather concrete information, such as figures. This data is structured and statistical. They provide the necessary support to reach general conclusions of the investigation.
What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research is that which makes use of qualitative data to describe an aspect, rather than measure it. It consists of impressions, opinions and perspectives. A qualitative survey is less structured, as it seeks to delve into the topic to gain insight into people’s motivations, thoughts, and attitudes. Although this data provides in-depth insights from research questions, its results are more difficult to analyze.
When to conduct qualitative research and when to conduct quantitative research?
Quantitative data can help you look at the big picture. Instead, qualitative data provides detailed insights and brings a personal voice to your survey results.
How can you use each method in a research project?
- Formulate your hypothesis: Qualitative research helps you gather detailed information on a topic. You can use it to start an investigation to find out the problems or opportunities that people consider important. These ideas can become a hypothesis that you should try to test from quantitative research.
- Validate your hypothesis: Quantitative research provides figures to which you can apply statistical analysis to validate your hypotheses. Was that problem real or was it just someone’s perception? The concrete data you get will allow you to make decisions based on objective observations.
- Find general answers: Quantitative research generally reaches more respondents than qualitative research because it is easier to do a multiple-choice survey than a series of interviews or focus groups. So, it can safely help you answer these general questions: Do people prefer you over your competitors? Which of the services your company offers are the most important? Which ad is most attractive?
- Incorporate the human element: Qualitative research can also help you in the final stage of your project. The statements you got in the open-ended questions can give a personal voice to the objective numbers and trends in your results. Listening to your customers describe your company can often help you discover blind spots. Qualitative data is what will provide you with this information.
How to balance qualitative and quantitative research
These two research methods do not conflict with each other. In fact, they work much better as a team. In a world of big data, there is a wide variety of statistics and calculations that form a solid foundation on which you can base your decisions. However, that foundation is incomplete if you don’t collect information from real people that gives meaning to those figures.
So how should you combine these two forms of research?
Qualitative research is always the starting point where you seek to discover new problems and opportunities that will help you do deeper research later. Quantitative data will give you the calculations to confirm and understand each problem or opportunity.
Need an example?
Let’s say you organize a congress and want to know the comments of the attendees. You can probably measure several aspects from quantitative research, such as attendance rate, overall attendee satisfaction, speaker quality, value of information provided, among others. These questions can be closed and measurable.
However, you may also want to provide some qualitative questions to learn about certain issues that you might not have taken into account.
You can use the following:
- What was your favorite part of the conference?
- How could we improve your experience?
- Do you have any comments about the conference that you think we should keep in mind?
If by reviewing the answers to these qualitative questions, you discover common themes, you can research them in depth, make changes to your next event, and be sure to add quantitative questions on these topics after the next conference.
For example, let’s say that several attendees said that what they liked least about the conference was the location, because of the difficulty of access. Next time, your survey may include quantitative questions like how satisfied they were with the location or letting respondents choose the potential site they would prefer from a list of options.
Open and closed questions
A good way to recognize when to switch methods is to look at your open-ended questions and ask yourself why you’re using them.
For example, if you asked, “What do you think about ice cream prices?” people would give their opinion in their own words and you would probably get unexpected answers.
If that’s not what you’re interested in getting, then you should consider using questions whose answers are easy to quantify. For example:
Rate the price of our ice cream compared to that of the competition:
- Approximately the same
This type of question will offer clear options to respondents and, in return, provide you with congruent data that is easy to analyze.
How to get qualitative data
There are many methods you can use to conduct qualitative research that gives you detailed information about the topic you’re interested in:
- Interviews: these are one-on-one conversations that delve into a topic.
- Case Studies: These are collections of customer stories that emerge from in-depth interviews.
- Expert opinions: this is quality information obtained from well-informed sources.
- Focus groups: These are in-person or online conversations of small groups of people, which aim to share their opinions about a product or topic.
- Open-ended survey questions: These are text boxes that allow respondents to express their opinions on an issue freely in a survey.
- Observational research: This is about observing people during the course of their usual routines to understand how they interact with a product, for example.
However, the open research method doesn’t always provide exact results for the most important questions you may have. Analyzing these results is also difficult because people use different words and phrases to describe their views and are likely to even end up talking about different topics if they find a space in which to elaborate.
In some cases, it might be more effective to use only quantitative questions.
Why should you collect quantitative data?
Qualitative survey questions may be too imprecise
In order not to confuse respondents, you should avoid questions such as “What do you think of our internet service?”.
Instead, you could ask a closed, quantitative question, as indicated below.
Is the internet service reliable?
- Most of the time
- About half the time
- Once in a while
Answering qualitative questions takes more time.
Respondents do not always have the patience to reflect on what they are being asked and write long answers in which they express their views accurately. It is faster to choose one of several options prepared in a questionnaire.
Using quantitative questions allows you to have more questions in your survey and more answers from them. Answers to quantitative questions are easier to measure
Even in closed-end questionnaires, you can assign a numerical value to answers with words in order to facilitate their subsequent conversion to indicators and graphs. This means that the overall quality of the data is better. Remember that the more accurate the data, the better your decisions.
Now that you know the definition of quantitative data and qualitative data and the differences between both research methods, you can better understand how to combine them.
If you want to learn how to use qualitative and quantitative research or want to know what characteristics a question should have to start your research, in our Online-thesis company you will have the necessary advice for the area of your need.
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