Quantitative research refers to exploring and measuring phenomena through numerical data. An example of quantitative research is surveying; through this research method, researchers measure how many respondents in a sample answer predesigned questions in one way or another. However, it is not always possible to survey all the people in a group of interest (such as the employees of a certain company or the population of a certain country), which is why proper sampling techniques are needed to ensure that the results of a quantitative study are generalizable (i.e. can apply to the entire group of interest) and replicable (i.e. can be repeated under different circumstances).
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Qualitative research, on the other hand, explores words as opposed to numbers. In qualitative studies, researchers intend to analyze meanings and perceptions present in certain groups instead of counting their responses. An example of qualitative research is in-depth interviewing: participants are asked to answer a set of questions in an open-ended manner, and the responses are further analyzed for content aspects and underlying themes. Measuring the reliability and validity of qualitative studies’ results is challenging because measuring is not the preoccupation of such studies in general, but certain reliability can be achieved through justifying qualitative methods in terms of theoretical frameworks.
Whether quantitative or qualitative design should be chosen for a study depends on the purpose of research. If a researcher intends to examine statistical trends or some other countable phenomena, quantitative methods should be employed. If it the intention to explore narratives, perceptions, interpretations, and opinions, qualitative methods should be employed. In both types of research, however, there is the need to justify the relevance of chosen methods to ensure that the results are valid and reliable.