Quantitative vs Qualitative Research Design

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The foundational difference between the two methodologies of quantitative and qualitative research is that they stem from differing ideas on the nature of ‘reality’. Whereas the quantitative concept of reality is an objective one proven to be true by empirical evidence, qualitative’s concept of ‘reality’ is based on personal perception. Qualitative methodology suggests that as ways of perceiving the would are unique that reality itself is subjective (Alston & Bowles, 2012, pp. 12-16). In other words, “reality is ‘socially constructed” (Alston & Bowles, 2012, p.13). Quantitative research design encompasses methods which focus on numbers, that is, quantities. The data collected in this design is usually in numbers which are then analyzed using statistical and mechanical methods (Alston & Bowles, 2012, p. 10). Alternatively, qualitative design normally uses words to explain wider concepts that cannot be captured mathematically such as beliefs, feelings and intentions. To obtain relevant information, in depth interviews are normally conducted. Although seemingly opposing in methodology and technical approach quantitative and qualitative research often prove complimentary and are frequently used together in multiple methods (Jick,1979, p. 602) research projects (Alston & Bowles, 2012, p. 15).

Quantitative research methodology spawned from the natural science model based upon the ‘positivist’ or ‘realist’ traditions of thought (Alston & Bowles, 2012, p. 10). Sarantakos (2005, as cited in Alston & Bowles, 2012) suggest that this model postulates that there is an objective ‘reality’ which operates by universal natural laws which can be measured precisely. In contrast, the theoretical basis of qualitative methodology includes “ethnograph...

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DOI: 10.1177/136140960501000505
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