Choosing the better research approach: quantitative or qualitative

At first glance, choosing a research approach seems like a daunting task. Differentiating the word ‘quantitative’ from its seemingly identical counterpart ‘qualitative’ is another challenge.

Though distinctively differed by merely two letters, quantitative sets itself apart from qualitative. In the context of research, a quantitative approach has a world of its own—a complex world that typically defined by numerical data.

Creswell (2010) dedicates chapters of his book to explore and differentiate quantitative and qualitative approaches.  The conception of the research questions up to the collection and analysis of data forms this intensive process.

In fully understanding quantitative research, one has to weed out its differences with qualitative research as shown in the tables below:

differentiating research approach

Research approach and educational  leadership

In the process of planning a study focusing on educational leadership, choosing the most suitable approach is like deciding to choose between two different paths. At times and despite these tables of differentiation, it is still confusing to decide on an appropriate research approach.

Is there a way by which we can determine the appropriateness of a particular approach in relation to the intended purpose of the researcher?

Is quantitative approach better than qualitative, or vice versa?

In addition, methodology relies on the intention of the researcher whether to explore or examine variables or explain a particular phenomenon.

This kind of logic leads to another question: Can we qualify variables or quantify a phenomenon? For a novice researcher relying on readings and lectures, the methodology must go according to the ‘academic judgment’ of the researcher.  One must then justify the appropriateness of the approach on the purpose and focus of the study to arrive at conclusive and impactful findings.

 More thoughts on quantitative research

Creswell’s (2010) idea of quantitative research highlights the notion of variables and instruments as the core ideas of this approach. From a linguistic point of view,  quantitative research refers to a more technical process.  For example, this involves numerical-statistical data gathered through an experiment, quasi-experiment, or a survey.

On the other hand, one needs to be skeptical n analyzing data in quantitative research.

Perhaps, this somehow goes against the essence of a quantitative research.  It presents information in the form of numbers.  In addition, this approach seems to be absolute and backed up by the laws of statistics.

 Should educational researchers use quantitative approach for my research?

Although numbers serve as a definitive and objective tool for logic, educational researchers may opt to go for a quantitative methodology.

Certainly, it would have been more helpful if references in Educational Research present a matrix.  This table should show pros and cons of quantitative and qualitative approaches.

In addition, it should indicate how this could be applied to a particular research topic. Through this matrix, one could easily answer questions like: ‘Is quantitative research more efficient/effective than qualitative?’

To initially address this gap, here are some videos on YouTube that clearly delineates quantitative and qualitative research:

Qualitative vs Quantitative Video

Overview of Quantitative Research

Overview of Qualitative Research

Although seemingly identical, quantitative and qualitative are two distinct approaches in research.

In the early stages of the process, it is important for a novice researcher to determine a research approach. This is in order to employ methods that best address the purpose of the study.

Metaphorically, this is one of the first crossroads a researcher has to face in this journey.

 

Reference:

Creswell, J. W. (2012). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (pp. 58-77, 103). Boston: Pearson.

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