Research is vital to understanding the world, and it’s used in decision-making processes in many areas. When people do market research, they can use one of two methods: qualitative or quantitative. 

Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, which makes it important to choose the correct one. By selecting the right research method, people can make sure that they get accurate and useful results. 

In this article, we’ll explain when to use qualitative and quantitative research methods and the differences between the two. 

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research involves delving into the details of a subject matter to gain a deep understanding of the underlying factors and motivations. It focuses on subjective experiences, opinions, and emotions. Qualitative research methods often use interviews, focus groups, and observations to collect data. This approach is valuable when exploring complex phenomena and understanding the “why” behind certain behaviours or attitudes.

What is Quantitative Research?

Quantitative research is based on numerical data and statistical analysis. It involves collecting data from a larger sample size to draw conclusions about a population. This method relies on structured surveys, experiments, and statistical analysis tools to gather and analyse data objectively. Quantitative research is effective at measuring and verifying hypotheses, identifying patterns, and establishing generalizable trends.

Key Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods

While both qualitative and quantitative research methods provide valuable insights, they differ significantly in various aspects:

Data Collection Methods

Qualitative research emphasises open-ended questions and allows participants to express their thoughts and experiences in their own words. Data is typically collected through interviews, fieldwork, or observations. 

In contrast, quantitative research employs closed-ended questions and structured surveys to gather data that can be measured and analysed statistically.

Analysis Techniques

The analysis techniques also diverge between the two research methods. Qualitative research involves thematic analysis, whereby data is organised and interpreted to identify recurring themes and patterns. 

On the other hand, quantitative research employs statistical analysis to determine relationships, correlations, and statistical significance.

When to Use Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is valuable in various situations:


  • Exploratory Research Purposes

When exploring a relatively unexplored topic or embarking on a new research area, qualitative research can provide a solid foundation. It allows for in-depth exploration and understanding of phenomena before developing hypotheses for quantitative research.

  • Understanding Complex Phenomena

For understanding complex behaviours, attitudes, or social dynamics, qualitative research excels. It enables researchers to dive deep into the underlying motivations and beliefs of individuals or groups.

  • Gathering In-Depth Insights

When a rich, holistic understanding of a subject matter is essential, qualitative research offers a more comprehensive view. It allows for the exploration of nuances and contextual factors that cannot be captured through numerical data alone.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research serves its purpose in various scenarios:


  • Confirming or Testing Hypotheses

When researchers have specific hypotheses or theories to validate, quantitative research can provide evidence that supports or refutes these assumptions. It allows for the generalisation of results to a larger population.

  • Generalising Results to a Larger Population

If the goal is to understand and draw conclusions that apply to a broader population, quantitative research is the preferred method. By surveying a representative sample size, results can be extrapolated to make inferences about a larger population.

  • Establishing Causal Relationships

To establish causal relationships between variables, quantitative research is ideal. It provides the tools to analyse data statistically and identify cause-and-effect relationships.

Choosing the Right Research Method

Selecting the appropriate research method is a crucial step in any study. It’s like choosing the perfect outfit for an important event – you want it to fit the occasion and make a lasting impression. Similarly, you need to consider various factors when determining the most suitable research method.

First and foremost, you need to be clear about your research objectives. What do you hope to achieve with your study? Are you looking to explore a phenomenon in-depth or measure specific variables? The answers to these questions will guide you in choosing between quantitative and qualitative research methods.

The nature of your research questions also plays a significant role. If you want to understand the experiences and thoughts of individuals and dig deep into their perceptions, qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups, or observations might be the way to go. On the other hand, if you aim to quantify data and find patterns or correlations, quantitative methods like surveys or experiments might be more appropriate.

Another factor to consider is the availability of resources. Do you have access to participants, equipment, or funding that might influence your choice of research method? Sometimes you have to work with what you have, and that’s okay. Just remember to make the best use of the resources at your disposal.

Time constraints can also impact your decision. Are you working with a tight deadline, or do you have the luxury of time? If time is limited, you might need to choose a research method that can generate results quickly, such as a survey or secondary data analysis.

Now, let’s talk about the mixed-methods approach. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods can provide a more comprehensive understanding of your research topic. This approach allows you to gather rich qualitative data that captures individuals’ perspectives and experiences, while also collecting quantitative data to measure variables and identify trends. By using a mixed-methods approach, you can benefit from the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative methods and gain a deeper insight into your research area.

Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing a research method. It’s a decision that requires careful consideration of your research objectives, research questions, available resources, and time constraints. By weighing these factors, you can select the most appropriate research method that will help you achieve meaningful and insightful results.


Qualitative and quantitative research methods are invaluable tools for obtaining insights and making informed decisions. The choice between qualitative and quantitative research depends on the research objectives, the nature of the research questions, and the depth of understanding required. By understanding the differences between the two methods and their appropriate applications, researchers can design studies that yield reliable and informative results. Whether exploring complex phenomena or validating hypotheses, the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods ultimately contributes to a deeper understanding of the world around us.