Qualitative vs Quantitative

For every question that can be asked, there is never a single answer. Whether the question being asked is something as relatively simple as what to have for dinner or as complex as the reactions and feedback of consumers in a specific market, many different approaches to researching the question exist.

For instance, qualitative research is a form of exploratory research that is used to garner opinions, feedback, motivations, and insights from the viewpoints of research participants. On the other hand, quantitative research is a way to quantify numerical data, opinions, behaviors, and attitudes from a larger pool of samples. Some differences exist between the two types of research, but both are valid tools for answering research questions or educating students.

Qualitative research comes in many forms. Qualitative research gathers opinionated information based on interviews, observed behaviors, and participant observations. Holding focus groups or personal interviews are a great form of qualitative research methods. Unfortunately, certain cons exist for qualitative research that can make it an undesirable way to obtain answers to a research question.

As per the link above, there are several downsides to qualitative research. The biggest problem with qualitative research is that the answers of interviewees and participants cannot be measured. Without being able to retrieve a numerical statistic to the answers, the research question will rely heavily on the interviewer’s skills and ability to piece together the unseen data. Not only are the answers in qualitative research lacking in statistical value, but because the sample size is so small, sometimes larger, more controversial research questions requires a quantitative approach.

However, certain benefits of qualitative research can also be found. This kind of research is extremely flexible and dynamic. Qualitative research has an intricate depth of understanding, a wider database, and an allowance for creative ideas. It is also important to note that qualitative research is essential for creative and marketing teams because of the more affluent influx of ideas and thoughts.

A great research question that would require a qualitative research approach would be one that seeks a deeper understanding of how and why people think and feel the way they do. With that in mind, the following research question can be asked and researched using qualitative research. In an online learning community, does communicating live with other students and the instructor increase the success of students?

The University of Phoenix relies on a form of online learning called the asynchronous learning method. The asynchronous learning method is defined as, “the time-delayed capabilities of the Internet . . . It typically involves tools such as: e-mail, threaded discussion, newsgroups and bulletin boards, and file attachments.” This means that most of the work done by students is completed by discussing certain things with the instructor and other students via a discussion group rather than all together in a real live situation. By using qualitative research, it can be determined if this style of learning is effective.

By conducting interviews with students and teachers about their experiences with asynchronous learning, a result of its success can be determined. However, the interviewer and conductor of the research must have knowledge and experience about both types of online learning. It is well known that every person learns differently. Some students prefer to have visual tools to help them learn something, while others prefer reading and experimenting on their own. Regardless of the learning type, students and teachers currently taking classes from one or the other learning method would be used as the participant pool.

The researcher would ask questions that helped understand why the students chose that particular learning method. Other questions about what their current thoughts are, as well as specific questions targeted at their current grade point average, and personal questions to determine how their personal lives are currently going would all be asked. Covering all ranges of student and teacher perception would help determine which learning method is more effective for online learning.

Just as every person can be labeled as a left brain or right brain thinker, research can also be classified the same way. Instead of behavioral opinions and observations, sometimes the raw statistical data is a more efficient way of answering a question. It is a gathering of numerical data which can then be categorized and is not subjected to interpretation. One of the largest perks of quantitative research is the fact that it is completely numerical.

Unfortunately, much like qualitative research, several cons are present. First, quantitative research requires a huge sample pool. The larger the pool, the more accurate the results, but the less involved the answers become. Second, this type of research only details the basic answers of the sample pool. Conversely, qualitative research seeks to understand the complexities and underlying answers of the correspondents. Finally, quantitative research relies on the ability to combine all of the statistical results into a firm resolution rather than interpreting the information into a more refined answer.

When asking the same question as before, a quantitative research approach can also be used. However, this time, rather than delving into the inner thoughts of the students and teachers, a more baseline set of answers will be sought. Rather than having an interviewer ask questions followed by more detailed inquiries, a simple set of questions and statements with a rating system will be provided. Instead of open-ended questions with interpretations, this research would ask yes or no questions, or use something much like Likert based questions.

Rather than asking questions to better understand why students chose a particular online learning method, the one that prepares the research will need to better refine the questions. Asking closed questions about each learning method allows for statistical analysis of each student’s preference. Questions about grade point average can be refined into specifics without allowing the students to answer freely. Each answer will be quantified, simple, and straight forward.

By sending out this questionnaire to the students and teachers, the researcher would not have to interpret anything. Everything presented to them in the results will be cut and dry. On an overall whole, quantitative research might better suit this particular question. More students will be questioned, statistically proven numbers will be presented, and an actual evidential proof will arise that shows which style is more successful.

Every aspect of life is filled with at least two sides to every equation. Coins have heads or tails, Earth has day and night, and communication research is no different. Choosing which method best answers a research question can be the difference between achieving an answer and asking more questions. Qualitative research hopes to garner a better understanding of the deeper roots of a question by delving into the thoughts, behaviors, and emotions of research participants. Quantitative research seeks stability in the form of numerical values and face value answers. When asking if an online learning community sees more success from asynchronous or synchronous learning, both qualitative and quantitative research can be used. Both research methods have pros and cons, but in the end, only the researcher can truly determine which method will help achieve the desired results with the most efficiency.

Written by Sean

Sean is currently a freelance writer that spends much of his time worrying far too much. He is a board and video game enthusiast, an avid watcher of movies, a lover of sports, and a certified nerd. While he has no specific writing style, he likes to think he can adapt as needed to different writing styles, tones, and intonations. He likes to cook, read books and is currently engaged to the love of his life!

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