The Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Traci Williams

qualitative research degree students writing dissertation

In conducting any research study, you will use either quantitative methods, qualitative methods or a mixture of the two. Both are important for gaining further insight into your topic of study. However, they differ in their approach and the type of data they collect.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are commonly used to support existing concepts and theories and develop new ones. Both approaches are often applied in the humanities disciplines, including sociology, psychology, public health and politics. Other fields that conduct extensive research include business, economics, healthcare, marketing and education.

As for their differences, qualitative research is gathered and expressed through words and narratives. Researchers use this approach to dig into the details, context and texture of individuals’ thoughts or experiences. Qualitative methods often include verbal interviews, open-ended questionnaires, focus groups, cultural or behavioral observations and published literature reviews.

Quantitative research is captured and conveyed through numbers and graphs. This approach is used to test or confirm existing theories by studying trends across large groups in a controlled fashion. Quantitative methods include experiments, closed-ended or scale questionnaires and highly structured observations.

Advancing Your Education and Research Skills

As you participate in a doctoral degree program, you develop the independent research skills to advance your career and make a difference in your field.

Many doctoral programs incorporate a combination of quantitative and qualitative courses to help learners apply their research, critical thinking and analytical skills to solving real-world problems in areas such as business, education, leadership and psychology.

These higher-level degree programs are created to allow learners to investigate the history, current trends and methods of their chosen discipline. However, as you advance in your degree program and begin the dissertation process, you may settle on one research method as especially appropriate for your intended dissertation topic or career path.

What Is a Qualitative Research Degree?

As you consider your aptitudes, your career preferences and your dissertation plan, you may find that analyzing people’s behaviors, thoughts and beliefs is the best fit for your goals. In this case, a degree program with a qualitative research focus is an appropriate choice. Doctoral students will gain expertise in developing research studies that look for significant patterns and identify key trends in thoughts, behaviors and concepts.

Some examples of courses in qualitative research degree programs are:

  • Qualitative data collection and management
  • Qualitative data analysis, results and findings
  • Designing a qualitative study
  • Foundations of research design

What Can You Do With an Advanced Qualitative Research Degree?

Earning a doctoral degree with a qualitative focus gives graduates the experience they need to advance their careers. Some careers that benefit from expertise in qualitative analysis include:

  • Behavioral health expert
  • Academic dean
  • Strategic planner
  • Social worker
  • Advanced clinician
  • Government representative or policymaker

What Is a Quantitative Research Degree?

If you find that quantitative analysis and data collection better fit your aptitudes and aspirations, you may prefer a degree program that emphasizes this approach. Degrees with a quantitative focus enable learners to go beyond existing research and explore their area of interest through their own sampling, analysis and interpretation of numerical data.

Some examples of courses across various disciplines that concentrate on quantitative methods are:

  • Quantitative data collection and statistical mechanics
  • Quantitative data analysis, results and findings
  • Designing a quantitative study
  • Foundations of research design

What Can You Do With an Advanced Quantitative Research Degree?

Earning a doctoral degree that gives you a keen understanding of the quantitative research process prepares you for leadership positions in your career field. Depending on your discipline, these positions can include:

  • Quantitative analyst
  • Computer scientist
  • Learning advocate
  • Business consultant
  • Market research director
  • Financial director

As you begin your degree program, you will find that both qualitative and quantitative research methods serve a purpose in most research-based positions. Understanding the unique applications and features of each will help you decide which one is best for your specific goals.

Take the next step in your career by earning your doctoral degree from Grand Canyon University. Our College of Doctoral Studies offers several doctoral programs with a qualitative or quantitative research focus, including a program leading to a Doctor of Business Administration in Data Analytics, an online EdD program in leadership and PhD studies in psychology. Online and evening classes are available to fit the schedules of busy professionals. Click on Request Info above to explore how GCU can help you achieve your professional and academic goals

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

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