Both types of study (quantitative and qualitative) are applied to conduct research in a number of different disciplines, depending on the purpose or the character of each particular research. Qualitative study design is typically used to provide the thorough description of the studied phenomenon whereas quantitative research uses statistical data to make conclusions about various events or to compare them (Creswell, 2013). Both study designs have their benefits and drawbacks which are the most evident in the two areas (Punch, 2013):
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- Control over study conditions. In case of quantitative research, control of the environment is definitely high, which some researchers name as an advantage since it helps establishing causality due to the use of precise measures and strict regulation of all variables. Yet, at the same time, such studies also have a considerable disadvantage: Controlled environment excludes extraneous factors that are usually present in reality, which means that the results could be generalized for the population but still will not be exactly the same as in real (vs. laboratory) settings. As far as qualitative studies are concerned, its advantage in terms of study conditions consists in the fact that it is not artificial and allows studying participants of research with as little intervention as possible. However, at the same time, the disadvantage is that precise measurements in uncontrolled environment are impossible.
- Generalizing results from a sample to a larger group of the population. In case quantitative study, the major benefit in this respect is that it is possible to make generalizations about the whole population on the basis of the sampling. Still, the drawback is that this type of research is predominantly deductive and does not allow arriving at a new theory. As for qualitative research, its advantage is that without generalizations it is inductive and usually leads to the appearance of a new approach or a theory. At the same time, the disadvantage is that external validity is not applicable to it, which means that no conclusions can be made about the population.
Thus, it is evident from the comparison that the qualitative study design is typically more trustworthy, innovative, credible, and rigorous.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Punch, K. F. (2013). Introduction to social research: Quantitative and qualitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.