Social scientists use two types of essays to explain their studies of human society. Qualitative papers base their findings on textual analysis of observations, while quantitative studies rely on statistical analysis of numbers for their explanations.
Qualitative essays are more subjective and focus on the researcher’s own inferences drawn from his study of the data. In contrast, quantitative studies are more objective and concentrate on drawing conclusions based an statistical analysis of the data.
Both types of essays seek to answer a question, called a hypothesis, about some aspect of social phenomena.
They use different types of data. Qualitative studies use data from focus groups or case studies that the researcher herself analyzes. Quantitative projects use surveys that provide a set of fixed responses that can be coded with numbers.
The qualitative approach originated first when scholars used broad generalizations to develop specific hypotheses to test, a process known as the deductive approach. As the use of statistics became more common, quantitative methods based on using specific observations to develop hypotheses leading to broader generalizations, called the inductive approach, became more popular.
Both types of essays can offer valid conclusions; however, the researcher must take care with generalizing his findings to other cases.