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Difference between Qualitative  Analysis and Quantitative Analysis

Qualitative and quantitative analysis are two fundamental methods of collecting and interpreting data in research. The methods can be used independently or concurrently since they all have the same objectives. They have some errors, and so using them concurrently can compensate for the errors each has and then produce quality results.

Moreover, there are overlaps in quantitative and qualitative analysis. This article uncovers the key differences between these two research analysis methods.


What is quantitative analysis?

Quantitative analysis is often associated with numerical analysis where data is collected, classified, and then computed for certain findings using a set of statistical methods. Data is chosen randomly in large samples and then analyzed. The advantage of quantitative analysis the findings can be applied in a general population using research patterns developed in the sample. This is a shortcoming of qualitative data analysis because of limited generalization of findings.

Quantitative analysis is more objective in nature. It seeks to understand the occurrence of events and then describe them using statistical methods. However, more clarity can be obtained by concurrently using qualitative and quantitative methods. Quantitative analysis normally leaves the random and scarce events in research results whereas qualitative analysis considers them.

Quantitative analysis is generally concerned with measurable quantities such as weight, length, temperature, speed, width, and many more. The data can be expressed in a tabular form or any diagrammatic representation using graphs or charts. Quantitative data can be classified as continuous or discrete, and it is often obtained using surveys, observations, experiments or interviews.

There are, however, limitations in quantitative analysis. For instance, it can be challenging to uncover relatively new concepts using quantitative analysis and that is where qualitative analysis comes into the equation to find out “why” a certain phenomenon occurs. That is why the methods are often used simultaneously.


What is a qualitative analysis?

Qualitative analysis is concerned with the analysis of data that cannot be quantified. This type of data is about the understanding and insights into the properties and attributes of objects (participants). Qualitative analysis can get a deeper understanding of “why” a certain phenomenon occurs. The analysis can be used in conjunction with quantitative analysis or precede it.

Unlike with quantitative analysis that is restricted by certain classification rules or numbers, qualitative data analysis can be wide ranged and multi-faceted. And it is subjective, descriptive, non-statistical and exploratory in nature.

Because qualitative analysis seeks to get a deeper understanding, the researcher must be well-rounded with whichever physical properties or attributes the study is based on. Oftentimes, the researcher may have a relationship with the participants where their characteristics are disclosed. In a quantitative analysis the characteristics of objects are often undisclosed. The typical data analyzed qualitatively include color, gender, nationality, taste, appearance, and many more as long as the data cannot be computed. Such data is obtained using interviews or observations.

There are limitations in qualitative analysis. For instance, it cannot be used to generalize the population. Small samples are used in an unstructured approach and they are non-representative of the general population hence the method cannot be used to generalize the entire population. That is where quantitative analysis into the factor.


Key differences between qualitative and quantitative analysis

Definition of qualitative and quantitative analysis

Qualitative data analysis is based on classification of objects (participants) according to properties and attributes whereas quantitative analysis is based on classification of data based on computable values. Qualitative analysis is subjective whereas quantitative is objective.

Data collection for qualitative and quantitative analysis

In qualitative analysis, the data is collected in small, unrepresentative samples in an unstructured way. Typical data collected include color, race, religion, nationality, and many more. In quantitative analysis, on the other hand, data is collected in large, representative samples that can generalize the entire population.

Research methodology involved in qualitative and quantitative analysis

Qualitative analysis methodology is exploratory where the analysis seeks to get a deeper understanding of why a certain phenomenon occurs. The methodology in quantitative analysis can be conclusive such as how much or how many times a certain phenomenon occurs not why it does occur.

Research findings

In qualitative analysis, research findings are specific to the objects being studied and are not applicable on the general population whereas in quantitative analysis the findings can be applicable on the general population.

Method of data collection

In qualitative analysis, researchers often ask open-ended questions, conduct interviews, and observations whereas in quantitative analysis researchers take measurements, conduct surveys, experiments and observations.

Purpose of qualitative and quantitative analysis

Qualitative analysis seeks to get a deeper understanding into social interactions while quantitative analysis seeks to test hypotheses and even give future predictions

Qualitative analysis Vs. Quantitative analysis: Comparison chart


Summary of Qualitative analysis Vs. Quantitative analysis

  • Quantitative analysis quantifies data to test hypotheses or predict the future whereas qualitative analysis seeks to get a deeper understanding of why certain things occur
  • The sample is small in qualitative analysis and cannot be used to represent the whole population while in quantitative analysis the sample is large and can represent the entire population
  • The researcher conducts interviews or surveys to collect qualitative data whereas in quantitative analysis the research conducts experiments, observations and measurements
  • Typical data include color, race, gender, in qualitative analysis whereas in quantitative analysis include all measurable quantities such as density, length, size, weight
  • Qualitative analysis is exploratory and subjective
  • Quantitative analysis is conclusive and objective

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References :

[0]QualitativeDataAnalysis.net. Qualitative and Quantitative Data Analysis: 7 Differences and the Common Sense. Accessed at: http://www.qualitativedataanalysis.net/qualitative-and-quantitative-data-analysis/. Accessed on 15 June 2018. 

[1]Hammersley, M. The relationship between qualitative and quantitative research: paradigm loyalty versus methodological eclecticism in J

[2]Lewins, A (2002). Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis in Gilbert, N. (ed.) Researching Social Life. London: Sage Publications, 2nd edition

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hillaryandanna/1264743824

[4]Image credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Symphony_Quantitative_Analysis.jpg#/media/File:Symphony_Quantitative_Analysis.jpg

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