Qualitative vs. Quantitative


Different subjects for research lend themselves to different types of studies. Each has advantages and disadvantages.


There are many subjects that cannot be reduced to numbers easily. Qualitative research tries to understand such issues from the point of view of a person involved in the situation (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010). They are by nature more subjective (Parkinson, 2009) because the data collector has opinions and perspectives that will invariably affect the interpretation of results (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010).

A qualitative study would allow for a more personal response especially on those sorts of issues that do not quantify. For example, consider a study about the prevailing opinions of competence in leadership based on disability status. Here in Texas, the recent governor’s race dealt with  such an issue since one of the candidates uses a wheelchair. The campaign had not been under way for long when the opposing side suggested that the need for a wheelchair made the candidate a poor choice (May, 2014). Opinion-based studies such as the perceptions of a disabled leader’s effectiveness would fit with a qualitative study.


Just as some studies are not conducive to numerical results, for others, personal opinions are irrelevant. Quantitative studies deal with statistics and things that can be numbered (Parkinson, 2009). These studies strive to be more objective to the point that the researchers seem emotionally cold (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010) when really, they are trying to keep personal bias out of the study.

A potential question for a quantitative study would need to be something that can be stated numerically. This is not the place for a case study or personal narrative. Drug trials often involve quantitative studies to report the rates of different kinds of drug reactions as well as the effectiveness of the medication. Personal opinions are not important, but the percentages are, so a quantitative study is useful.

Mixed Methodologies

A mixed methodologies study has aspects of both qualitative and quantitative research (Locke, Silverman, & Spirduso, 2010). In these cases, numbers are important but they may not give the entire perspective.

One of my first jobs out of college was working as a Project Assistant for the Texas Medical Foundation. I worked in a department that did research into best practices used in hospitals. In addition to the typical secretarial types of tasks, I prepared presentation materials for the doctors who worked with the foundation to take back to the hospitals.

The type of data collection done ended up using some facets of qualitative and quantitative studies. Nurses went to the hospitals and collected data on the particular treatments used for a certain illness. These were calculated into statistical results that went into a presentation. That, however, did not give the entire picture. When dealing with people and medical issues, there are other factors that come into play. In addition to the statistics, there were some case studies. People were interviewed about the treatments for the illnesses being studied.


In addition to the subject being researched, we also need to consider our audiences. Some would find numerical results more credible. Others lose interest if the data are number-heavy. The audience for one of my class projects was the teachers and administrators in low socio-economic status (SES) school districts. These are people who do not have a lot of time. Based on my experience, teaching in public schools in America is already an endeavor that takes up over 80 hours per week, and teaching in low SES districts takes more than that. Lengthy discussions and anecdotes would more of a hindrance than a help and might be ignored altogether. This audience needs concise, easily digested information. A few charts with simple percentages and the necessary factual information will get more recognition than lengthy tables of data or long narratives.



Locke, L. F., Silverman, S. J., & Spirduso, W. W. (2010). Reading and understanding research (Laureate Education, Inc., custom ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

May, C. (2014, January 23). Wendy Davis supporters mock Greg Abbott’s wheelchair, ignore voter fraud. The Daily Caller. Retrieved from http://dailycaller.com/2014/01/23/wendy-davis-supports-mock-greg-abbotts-wheelchair-ignore-voter-fraud-video/

Parkinson, K. (2009). You rock? Prove it! Justify the existence of your program board in tough times. Campus Activities Programming, 41(8), 46–49. Retrieved from the Walden Library using the Education Research Complete database: http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=39663021&site=ehost-live&scope=site


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