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Before giving an opinion on this statement it is worth looking at both qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Qualitative Methods

Qualitative research methods can be described as an attempt to explain behavior in a holistic approach. It is concentrated on the ‘why’, not the ‘how’ of a topic, by analyzing the unstructured information. Qualitative studies are usually conducted on a small scale and used to explore a hypothesis. In qualitative research what matters most is that was said than how many times something happened.  Qualitative research seeks to understand the deeply hidden motivations of the target group. They allow obtaining the knowledge about the (emotional) sensitivity thresholds, barriers, attitudes, evaluations, desires and needs of the target group. These methods are therefore mainly used when there is a need for in-depth information. The so called projection techniques are often used in qualitative research that allows you to ask questions in an indirect way. This form of questions (“not direct”) encourages the participants to transfer (project) their hidden or unconscious motives, beliefs, attitudes and feelings associated with the test subject. The basic projection techniques are: associations with the brand association with pictures, a portrait of Chinese, completion is pictures, personification, collage.

The advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative research:

Advantages: Uses subjective information, it is not limited to the rigidly definable variables, exploring new areas of research, and building new theories.

Disadvantages: ‘Classical’ researchers can have difficulties in understanding this kind of research, there is an unavoidable risk of building up a researcher bias, very difficult to replicate.

In psychology Qualitative methods concentrate on categorising and describing the data, are used to analyse text, conversation or speech (interviews very often recorded or taped). Data is most often collected in natural settings and in field experiments. Qualitative methods produce flexible and subjective data. Transferring the speech into writing is very time consuming and has to be done very accurately.


Quantitative methods


Quantitative studies allow measuring the extent of the phenomenon, in terms of quantitative variables. Hence, the question most often correspond to how many, who and where.

The main aim of the quantitative research methods is to determine the relationship between two things: a dependent or outcome variable, and an independent variable, in a population. Quantitative research designs can be either experimental (subjects measured before and after a treatment) or descriptive (subjects usually measured once). Experiment are used to establishes causality, whereas descriptive studies are used to establish only the associations the between variables. It often requires recruiting hundreds or even thousands of participants (which reduces the likelihood of biases).


Advantages: comprehensive answer can be reached after statistical analysis, results may be legally published and discussed, if the study was properly designed, then the results produced, can be viewed as unbiased and real.

Disadvantages: can be very expensive, and extremely time consuming, need to be carefully planned, very often extensive statistic analysis is necessary. Can be a give a very hard time to non mathematicians. Most of the time produces only yes or no response.


Researchers can also use mixed method designs, which are the combinations of both qualitative and quantitative research methods, at all stages of data collection and analysis. The main advantage of using this method is that it overcomes the downsides of both qualitative and quantitative on their own.


After looking at both research methods none of them is more or less scientific, because both have advantages and disadvantages. Just because qualitative methods don’t use numbers straight away, and that they do not involve testing 1000 participants it does not simply mean it is less scientific. Qualitative methods provide with more details about the problem, and details that any researcher would have never been able to gain using quantitative research.

Further reading:

–          http://www.qsrinternational.com/what-is-qualitative-research.aspx

–          http://www.sportsci.org/jour/0001/wghdesign.html

–          Brink, H. (1991). Quantitative vs. qualitative research. Nursing RSA, 6, 14-18.

–          http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTUKRAINE/Resources/328335-1212401346836/1MixedMethods.pdf

–          http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR8-1/labuschagne.html

–          http://www.okstate.edu/ag/agedcm4h/academic/aged5980a/5980/qualrsch/QUALRSCH/sld010.htm

–          http://www.experiment-resources.com/quantitative-research-design.html



Comments on: "Qualitative research isn’t as scientific as quantitative methods" (11)

  1. Good blog with great descriptions and examples of qualitative & quantitative research methods! I’m not sure I would have put ‘it uses subjective information’ as an advantage for qualitative data as alot of people claim that to be a disadvantage as because it can effect the validity and reliability if the researcher is not objective. However, qualitative methods can alow researchers to study behaviour that can’t be done using quantitative methods for example – observing behaviour in natural settings such as reasearch on attachment by Ainsworth (1970).

    • Some researchers (Rennie, 1994; Schneider, 1999) suggest that making use of subjectivity and drawing on someone’s inner experience in order have a better understanding of a study and the subject. This however can cause some limitations because of the researcher’s view (Drapeau & Letendre, 2001). So if the researcher is not objective the problem lies in the researcher rather than in the method. Should such researchers stick to the quantitative methods instead? Possibly.

  2. i love the use of images and diagrams in your blog. I agree with you that scientifically there isnt much difference and both do have their advantages and disadvantages but so do all scientific methods so that doesnt mean the one with more disadvantages is less scientific. some people think a method has to use numbers and complicated methods to be scientific which is why some people say qualitative research is not always seen as scientific. I personally think the idea of qualitative methods is great and creates some really in depth research and some ground breaking stuff has come from it. and if people say there is less work in qualitative methods then they are wrong. In order to get the more indepth research a lot of time and effort has to be put it. Quantitative research isnt the any worse though, its just not as descriptive but there has been some great research that has come from that too. All in all I think there are benefits to both methods and are great depending on the situation.

    • Yes, absolutely. Some people say that qualitative mathods are less scientific. However I believe that there are more things that could go wrong in a qualitative reaseaerch. There are so many steps involved with exploratory of data, calculations, exclusion of outliers, using the adequate significance tests and interpretation of the spss outcome. There are so many things that could go wrong and therefore pleanty of room for error. There is not much that could go wrong with qualitative reasearchon the other hand. As long as all the procedures for coding and interpretating are followed. Therefore yes I believe that both methiods are just as sicentific, and they both should be used.

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