Quantitative and qualitative and qualitative research ... Qualitative vs quantitative Researchers need different types of data to answer different types of

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  • Exploring communities

    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    1

    Quantitative and qualitative research

    Quantitative and qualitative research 1

    Qualitative vs quantitative 2

    Overview of qualitative research 3

    Qualitative research techniques 3

    Overview of quantitative research 5

    Quantitative research techniques 5

  • Exploring communities

    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    2

    Qualitative vs quantitative

    Researchers need different types of data to answer different types ofquestions and solve different types of problems. In some cases, a researcherwill need to know why an event happens and how people feel about it. Atother times, they may need to know how many people felt a certain wayabout an issue and to ensure as far as possible for that information to applyacross the entire population.

    Qualitative research gains insights from peoples about their feelings andmotivations. It also touches on emotions, attitudes, reactions and beliefs. Itusually requires a smaller sample of respondents and is generally moreexpensive per person to collect, but on the other hand, generates a largeramount of data per person (which can be correspondingly harder toanalyse).

    Quantitative research involves gathering data from a large number of peopleto the extent that their responses are representative of the population ofconcern. It is concerned with numerical measurements, and deals withpercentages, proportions, graphs, charts and statistics. Quantitative data isusually cheaper per person to collect but generates a smaller amount ofinformation per person.

    The essential difference between quantitative and qualitative research is thatthe former emphasises numbers while the latter provides conclusions inwords.

    Qualitative and quantitative research methods can be combined toprovide a higher quality result.

  • Exploring communities

    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    3

    Overview of qualitative research

    Qualitative research involves gathering, analysing and interpreting data byobserving what people say or do. It involves seeking opinions and feelingsabout situations. Impressions are reported rather than numbers.

    Qualitative research techniquesQualitative research aims to gain insight from people about their feelingsand motivations. Techniques include:

    interviews observations focus groups.

    InterviewsInterviews involve an interviewer posing a series of predeterminedquestions to a respondent(s). They are useful if you want to get detailedinformation from people about their experiences, thoughts, feelings oropinions about a particular issue.

    Interview can provide rich qualitative data for the purpose of understandingthe motivations and emotions behind peoples decisions and/or actionsregarding a specific issue.

    A key skill that the interviewer needs is the skill of probing. To probe is tofully explore an issue raised by a respondent. An interviewer can do this byasking questions such as Why do you say that? and Can you tell memore?

    ObservationsObservations involve the researcher examining the behaviour of aparticipant(s). For example, if your research project was to see how peoplein your local community use a park, you could note whether people jog,walk, or do another activity (eg roller-blading).

    There are two main types of observational research: participant observation involving the researcher participating in

  • Exploring communities

    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    4

    the group and observing from within.Greater disclosure often occurs due to the researcher gaining betteraccess to the group. However, the presence of the researcher andtheir actions can influence group dynamics.

    non participant observation involving the researcher observingthe group without participating.The researcher can be more objective and it is easier to record theobservations. However, an awareness of group members that theyare under observation can influence their actions.

    Different observation methods are used depending on the particular researchobjectives. Observations can be:

    structured or unstructured disguised or undisguised natural or contrived.

    Focus groupsFocus groups involve a facilitator obtaining opinions and discussing issueswith a group of respondents in a non-structured and natural manner. Aresearcher can use a direct approach, where respondents know the purposeof the discussion or use an indirect approach, where the respondents are notinformed about the purpose or the subject of the interview.

    The main purpose of a focus group is to gain insights and understandinginto the thoughts, feelings and behaviour of consumers. The participants in afocus group are specifically selected to be broadly representative of thepopulation of interest.

    Information about feelings, motivations, and the like can also bequantitative, when rating scales are used to collect the data and the resultscan be analysed statistically. A qualitative research method can result inquantitative data.

  • Exploring communities

    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    5

    Overview of quantitative research

    Quantitative research involves collecting of a large body of data, usually bysurvey, and making a statistical analysis of it. Quantitative research isresearch that can be expressed in numbers. These numbers can show resultssuch as the following: 47 per cent of 1200 people surveyed stated a preference for X over Y. Trains arrive at the city terminal on average 10 minutes 30 seconds late. Between 12 noon and 2 pm the queue of callers averages 3.2 people.

    While the aim of qualitative research is to stimulate ideas and insights into aproblem situation, quantitative research is designed to explain what ishappening and how often it is happening. It is normally conducted by usinga large sample of research subjects with a more formal and structuredresearch process.

    Quantitative research techniquesQuantitative research relates to quantity. This is used if you needinformation in relation to amounts. Techniques fall into two majorcategories:

    descriptivesurveys and observations causalexperimentation and test marketing.

    SurveysSurveys use questionnaires or interviews to ask people for information. Thepeople who participate in a survey are called respondents. Surveys provide aquick and efficient method of assessing information about a population.They can be quite flexible and when properly conducted are extremelyvaluable to the researcher.

    There are three major ways of administering surveys:1 person-administered surveys2 computer-administered surveys3 self-administered surveys.

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    State of New South Wales, Department of Education and Training 2006

    6

    Using a questionnaire allows a researcher to gather data from a largernumber of people. Imagine interviewing 1000 people! This would takemuch longer than merely sending out 1000 questionnaires and having thepeople complete it themselves. This method is often used via mail where alarge number of people are given questionnaires and asked to complete andreturn them. One of the drawbacks of this method is that often a largenumber of people do not complete and return the questionnaire. Also, in aninterview if a person says something that could be particularly interestingthe researcher is able to pursue that issue and perhaps get some rich data.

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