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Quantitative and Qualitative Methods in Scientific Writing

What are the characteristics of the quantitative and qualitative procedures? What are the differences?

When writing scientific papers, research work is often required while studying. At the latest in the diploma thesis – in some disciplines such as social sciences or economics already in the seminar papers – the students are faced with deciding which research method to use. 

The
numerous research methods can basically be characterized as quantitative or
qualitative. 

Before
choosing a method for his scientific work, one should be aware of the
following: 

– What are the characteristics of the quantitative and qualitative procedures? What are the differences?
– What criteria should be used to decide on a quantitative or qualitative approach?

What are the characteristics of the quantitative and qualitative procedures? What are the differences?

The main differences between the quantitative and the qualitative methods:

The quantitative methods belong to the empirical research methods. It is about collecting and – statistically – analyzing measurable data, verifiable facts; they are counted, measured, weighed, and compared. The results may include yes-no, this or that answers, or comparable data and data expressed in numbers. 

The qualitative Methods are also among the empirical research methods, but are looking for answers to the questions how? And why? It’s about ways of thinking, perceptions, values, individual aspects and motivations. As results you get subjective statements, possibly new findings. 

The
most important features of quantitative and qualitative methods: 

The
quantitative methods

Research with quantitative methods is therefore about working with numerical data. These research methods are always preceded by a hypothesis whose value, the truth, is to be tested. The collected data should serve as the primary test of this hypothesis and enable a causal explanation.

In order to capture reality in the form of models, relationships and numerical data, it is broken down into controllable perceptions, measurable units defined as units of observation. The research is conducted under laboratory-like circumstances conclusions can be drawn by deductive reasoning based on the results of investigations carried out in an appropriately selected smaller group of the company. They can – according to a statistical generalization – represent a representative of a larger group.

The measuring instruments of the quantitative methods are standardized and objective.

In the first phase of quantitative research, “the field of research” is described for hypothesis formation. In the optimal case, the state of research on the topic is also described, existing theories and models are given. Now the research hypothesis can be formulated, which is examined in the research process. Thus, the objective is already fixed.

The second step is to define the research process: to identify the research design, the survey techniques used to collect the material, and the mathematical processing techniques so that the collected materials can be used as data for further analysis.

In the third research phase, the collected, statistically – in descriptive or closing statistics – processed materials, data processed, processed, evaluated, compared, connections are shown. In the context of the topic, they are linked with each other, interpreted, answered to the research question, and the research hypothesis can be confirmed or denied.

 Quantitative Research Methods

Experiment
This research method is optimal for testing a causal hypothesis. Both the questions and the target groups can vary. Subjects are randomized to one experimental group and one control group. This achieves a relatively high reliability even with a small sample size. For both groups, the questions may vary, or even the group selection is the two variables.

Survey Search 

Perhaps the most common method of quantitative research is the questionnaire survey. To the hypothesis in the topic of the research questions and answer categories are formulated for a questionnaire. The implementation requires the largest possible and representative random sample (test persons). The implementation is predominantly in writing (rarely personally) and lately also online. This has the advantages that it is easier to obtain a corresponding and representative sample and that various tools are available for this purpose, which then also “deliver” the appropriate evaluation options. This research methodology is standardized. The exact same conditions for all respondents ensure the comparability of the results. 

Correlation studies

This method does not simply examine the statistical relationships of two relevant variables. The relationship between the characteristics is examined, the structure of the relationships between the two variables can be uncovered and analyzed quantitatively and systematically. In this procedure, however, no cause-and-effect statements can be made, it cannot be used for the theses review, and this always requires further research. 

The
qualitative methods:

Of
course, qualitative research is not about collecting numerical data and its
statistical representation. It is about a deeper understanding of the
topic by collecting opinions, behavior, ways of thinking, motivations, etc. A
qualitative research can answer the question why? Provide a basis for a new hypothesis
formation, for further quantitative research.

Since
qualitative research works with opinions, ways of thinking, that is,
perceptions of life, inner values ​​that are personal and also subject to
temporal trends, the results are rather subjective, difficult to represent by
numbers. A qualitative research inevitably differs from another, because
the subjects are different. But later repeated research with the same
subjects also leads to different results, because over time and under other
circumstances, the perceptions, feelings, values, etc. also change. 

Benefits
of Qualitative Research Methods

1. Depth and Details
Because qualitative research does not work with fixed, pre-defined structures that dictate the direction and depth of questions and answers, it can capture many, detailed information that better reflects existing varieties in reality.

2. Focus on the personal.

The personally varying thoughts, attitudes and experiences can only be captured in a qualitative research, for example in a depth interview.

3. Openness and flexibility.

Although opinions are asked on the same topic, the answers can vary freely, so several views come to light. According to current answers, we can change the order of questions during research, shift our focus, and even introduce and follow new aspects that arise from an answer.

4. Fewer subjects.

Especially compared to the surveys we need a much smaller sample size. Although the implementation of the qualitative procedures seems to be more protracted (interviews, observations, etc.), the organization of around 100-200 people may take a similar amount of time to complete a survey and prepare and evaluate the numerical data.

Data
preparation in qualitative research

After
describing the state of research, defining the research objective, formulating
the research question, defining the form of the qualitative data collection and
carrying out the research, the quality of the collected information is
analyzed. 

The
information must be prepared for further processing, for example, the recorded
interviews must be transcribed. 

For
the analysis of the statements in the qualitative interviews, we have to use a
scientific evaluation method so that we can come to a central conclusion at the
end of our research.

A
common procedure for this is the qualitative content analysis according to
Mayring. It combines qualitative as well as quantitative analysis steps
with the qualitatively collected information. According to this, one
carries out a coding, that is, in the text individual statements (words,
sentences, and even whole passages) are provided with so-called codes. Through
these codes, central statements can be identified, recorded. The codes in
a text are combined into coding, that is, an attempt is made to find generic
terms for the individual codes. If this was done on all texts for all
interviews, there is a generalization. The coding from all texts show
cross-connections between the texts. So you end up with the essential
result of the research: Because of the coding, in a few short.

For
qualitative content analysis, there are computer programs as well as tools for
carrying out and evaluating quantitative research. 

What criteria should be used to decide on a quantitative or qualitative approach?

Decision criteria for one’s own approach: quantitative or qualitative 

The
own procedure should be selected according to the subject matter to be
examined, the subject of the research, the selected topic: Do I need measurable
data about it, in order to examine a research hypothesis or do I want to
capture the phenomenon as complex as possible, for example to find out reasons
for a new hypothesis to set it up? But even quantitative research is not
only suitable for simple documentation of certain facts. Not only can
numbers be recorded and compiled into statistics according to the rules of
mathematics. Well-collected empirical data can also provide explanations
for facts. And the quantitatively processed data can also be used in a
research topic that deals with subjective statements, opinions, priorities,
backgrounds.

The two method groups can be combined in a scientific work to complement each other.

When
deciding on a specific research method, the current state of research on the
topic should also be taken into account. Do not do any research to create
a hundredth statistic on the topic, where detailed analysis on all aspects of
the topic is already available! 

The
two method groups do not differ significantly in terms of time and effort.

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