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Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

So how do you know if your project calls for qualitative or quantitative research? What’s the difference, anyway?

Using Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps you investigate meaning and motivations. When you are aiming for a narrative description that helps you understand “why” a group feels or acts the way it does, then qualitative research is most appropriate. Use qualitative research when you know only roughly what information you are seeking.

Using Quantitative Research

Quantitative research gives you hard numbers and statistics. When your goal is to count how many or how much or when you want to establish facts, then quantitative research is most appropriate. Quantitative research is used when you clearly know what data you want to find.

Using Both Qualitative and Quantitative Research 

For many types of investigations, it makes sense to use both qualitative and quantitative research. For example, if you don’t quite know what language to use to describe behaviors that you want to measure, you could use a qualitative approach such as a focus group to help you create content for a quantitative survey.

Alternatively, you might want to understand the reasoning for specific survey responses. Once you have your survey results, you could conduct a focus group to dive deeper on a number of different findings from your survey. Or, within the survey itself, you could ask respondents open-ended questions to understand the motivations for specific quantitative responses.

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