Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

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Qualitative vs Quantitative Research:  Why it Matters

The research supporting many popular reading programs is problematic because it is based on qualitative research.

  • Qualitative research uses the subjective measure of observations which is not based on structured and validated data-collection.
  • Study groups are not randomly selected, nor are they controlled for variables.
  • Qualitative research is bottom up research: it generates a theory based on the data collected rather than testing a theory with the data.
  • Qualitative research is not double-blind, and allows bias into the research:  this alone invalidates an entire study and makes it worthless.





  • To understand and interpret social interactions
  • Test hypotheses
  • Look at cause and effect
  • Make predictions
Group Studied
  • Smaller
  • Not randomly selected
  • Larger
  • Randomly selected
  • Study of the whole, not variables.
  • Specific variables studied
Type of Data Collected
  • Words
  • Images
  • Objects
  • Numbers
  • Statistics
Form of Data Collected Qualitative data such as:

  • open- ended responses
  • interviews
  • participant observations
  • field notes
  • reflections
 Quantitative data based on:

  • precise measurements
  • using structured validated data-collection instruments
Type of Data Analysis Identify

  • patterns
  • features
  • themes

  • statistical relationships
Objectivity and Subjectivity
  • Subjectivity is expected
  • Objectivity is critical
Role of Researcher
  • Researcher & their biases may be known to participants in the study
  • Participant characteristics may be known to the researcher
  • Researcher and their biases are not known to participants in the study
  • Participant characteristics are deliberately hidden from the research (double blind studies)
  • Particular or specialized findings that is less generalizable
  •  Generalizable findings that can be applied to other populations
Scientific Method Exploratory or bottom–up:

  • the researcher generates a new hypothesis and theory from the data collected
 Confirmatory or top-down:

  • the researcher tests the hypothesis and theory with the data
View of Human Behavior
  • Dynamic
  • Situational
  • Social
  • Personal
  • Regular
  • Predictable
Most Common Research Objectives
  • Explore
  • Discover
  • Construct
  • Describe
  • Explain
  • Predict
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Examines the breadth and depth of phenomena
  • Narrow-angle lens
  • Tests a specific hypothesis
Nature of Observation
  •  Study behavior in a natural environment.
  • Study behavior under controlled conditions
  • Isolate causal effects
Nature of Reality
  • Multiple realities
  • Subjective
  • Single reality
  • Objective
 Final Report
  • Narrative report with contextual description
  • Direct quotations from research participants
 Statistical report with

  • correlations
  • comparisons of means
  • statistical significance of findings


The content in the above table was taken directly from an Xavier University Library publication using the following sources:

  • Johnson, B., & Christensen, L. (2008). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches (p. 34). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Lichtman, M. (2006). Qualitative research in education: A user’s guide (pp. 7-8). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

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