When researching a topic such as television trends or diabetes medications, a researcher has two research methods to choose from: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research relies on words to explain research findings; it may use interviews or focus groups. Quantitative research involves creating a hypothesis and identifying statistics to explain research findings. Using quantitative research has many advantages. For example, quantitative research allows a researcher to objectively detail evidence. However, quantitative research also has disadvantages.
Qualitative research relies on specific evidence rather than generalized research. For example, qualitative research allows a researcher to use a case study to illustrate a phenomenon. Data collection is based on participants' meanings rather than a more objective collection of statistics. Qualitative research often involves cross-case comparisons.
Qualitative research tends to cause a researcher to become immersed in the research topic. For example, a researcher using qualitative research may conduct in-depth interviews, interact with participants and rely on her own observations. A researcher using quantitative research methods remains separated from the subject matter. The researcher remains objective when conducting research. Instead of conducting in-depth interviews, a researcher may use analysis and questionnaires to test a hypothesis. An advantage of using quantitative research is that the researcher remains more objective while proving or disproving a hypothesis.
Quantitative and qualitative research both encompass planning before conducting or analyzing research. Quantitative research, however, involves more planning, which becomes a disadvantage. For instance all aspects of a research study must be carefully designed before collecting any data. A researcher needs a concrete hypothesis and needs to know the type of research involved---such as questionnaires and test questions. With qualitative research, the design typically emerges as the research study develops.
Quantitative research depends on data and involves testing a hypothesis, but it can miss contextual details. For example, a researcher doesn't provide a detailed description when using quantitative research. Instead the researcher depends on numbers and statistics to prove a hypothesis. A researcher researching diabetes medication, for instance, might record how many times a research participant missed the medication but not the details of what happened during a participant's day to cause him to forget to take the diabetes medication.