Qualitative vs. Quantitative

20 11 2011

As you know, there are two types of data: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative data consists of values-such as a reaction time, or a score on a test. Qualitative data are deeper, and consist of opinions, feelings and beliefs. Although quantitative data can tell us a lot, I feel that qualitative data is the best data.

Quantitative data can tell us things such as how well someone does on an experiment, or tell us what personality type they are, and many other things, however it doesn’t tell us WHY. Qualitative data can tell us WHY someone believed this, WHY someone made this decision, WHY someone pressed a button, etc. Quantitative is more descriptive, whereas qualitative is more evaluative.

Although some can point out the qualitative data is time-consuming, which it is when you have to transcribe your data, no one can deny that it’s worth it in the end, right?

Quantitative data requires stats to analysis it to show what it actually means. This can be a good and a bad thing; good because then we know what the data ACTUALLY actually means, and bad because some people just HATE stats and can’t get their head around programs such as SPSS (like me).

Quantitative data can have one over on qualitative, as it is more objective. There are few quantitative measurements that a participant cannot lie about, or cheat on, such as galvanic skin responses and heart rate. Qualitative measures such as self report and interviews are at the mercy of a participant’s honesty; it’s very easy for them to lie on these, whether they want to look better or they just want the experiment/questionnaire to finish.

Unlike quantitative methods, when using a qualitative method when conducting research, the theory or hypothesis is usually made towards the end of the study, when we have started to collect data. This can be a good thing, as making an assumption before any data has been collected is getting a bit ahead of ourselves, especially when we find we’re wrong. Some psychologists may start to realise their hypothesis is wrong halfway through collecting their data, so to be able to decide at a later point may be the best way to go.

I think the way to get round qualitative data’s downfall is to include a bit of quantitative data in the study. This may defeat the object of having one type of data or the other but it’s the only way to have the deepness and explanations of qualitative data with the objectivity of quantitative.




16 responses

25 01 2013
9 12 2011
9 12 2011

Great blog 🙂 I think that qualitative data is just as scientific it is just offering an alternative method to the quantitative method. Like you mentioned, the qualitative method does produce rich and indepth data however it has been scrutinised as it can be said that it is subject to interpretation. However, this is where the t inter-rater reliability test comes into play. This is where other people check the transcriptions so they are more reliable. Flyvbjerg (2006) praised the qualitative method as it can be used both for hypotheses-testing and for generalising beyond the particular cases studies.

9 12 2011
8 12 2011

Just like prpsjj I also am for qualitative data. I believe that it provides the researchers with a more comprehensive understanding of what the participant is feeling. As psychologist we are interested not only in what factors affect behavior but also why and how they make some one feel. To gather a clearer understanding of this we must use qualitative data.
As you say though this kind of research is open to interpretation, when using IPA (Smith, Jarman & Osborne, 1999) the researcher looks for re emerging themes which are considered important, however what is considered important to one researcher may not be considered important to another.
You talk about using both methods to gain a clearer image of what the data means, Neuman (2010) talks about the advantages of doing this in his paper Social Research Methods: Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
Like you I too struggle with stats, I can spend says trying to get spss to work and still fail to get it right, so for me analyzing qualitative data is no more time consuming.

4 12 2011
4 12 2011

I m surprised how you concluded. Most people completely slate qualitative, seeing it as subjective and unscientific, if coded badly then yes the data will be unscientific.However like you I am very much for qualitative data. It is time consuming and there is a certain skill to the coding, bad coders bring their own perspectives to the coding and so this is why it is often considered subjective, with practice however coders learn not to do this. It is true to say that the discourse analysis method, is not always scientific as it searches for patterns and each researcher can often bring their own perspectives to the coding. However despite this other methods such as the grounded theory and the later developed IPA method were created in the pursuit of making the qualitative method more scientific and have been successful.

Yes this can be time consuming but for me so is quantitative, like you It takes me along time to get my head round stats and so in fact for me it isnt any more time consuming.

25 11 2011

I definitely agree with the fact that mixed methedologies are needed to understand data fully, it appears that rather than being against each other these methedologies should work side by side to ensure that any experimenter can get a complete understanding of what it is they are studying, rather than try to seperate them into two sets of data. Of course this is fully dependant on what it is the experimenter is studying, as they may only need one type of data, in which case, it seems that quantitative methods usually succeed.

25 11 2011
Blog Comments For My TA- Week 9 « All About Psychology

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25 11 2011

I agree with your blog post and with a couple of other posts by others, I like that you came to the decision that a mixed method design is best. I think one major factor when arguing which is best is the process is when using quantitative research is less likely to be open to interpretation from subjective opinions, however qualitative data is more likely to be subjective from the researchers one way in which this could be combated is by using the inter-rater test to ensure that the results aren’t subjective.

25 11 2011

hey there! you mentioned in your blog that qualitative data is more evaluative, and you’re quite right with that. I personally think qualitative data analysis is a good way to get to grips with exactly what people are saying, as there are themes that may come through that qualitative data won’t explore (you can’t really work out what, and more importantly why, someone may value comfort ahead of communication in a friendship on a 1-10 scale).

One thing I do notice though is that the data is open to interpretation as you may find that, using the data from our group session this week, that for you personally comfort is a key factor in friendship. In which case, you maybe (albeit unintentionally) inclined to look for signs of comfort in there and make that the interviewees main factor, causing yourself to miss the genuine main factor which may be ethnicity.

Factoring in quantitative data may well help remove some of the ‘it’s not scientific’ critics of it, but they are open to the same levels of bias and misinterpretation but just in a different way (removing outliers that skew the data, adding more participants and not removing participants when they should be (see the Pfizer data in Blackboard as an example)).

That’s my thoughts anyway 🙂

25 11 2011

I like how that you have gone straight to the point with regards to the two types of data and then firmly presented you perspective on this matter.I also really liked how you came to the conclusion that both types of data are the best way forward which, in my opinion, is definitely the case. However I do think that maybe you could have gone into more detail as to the ways in which some qualitative data collection can be as objective as it possibly can by going back through the data and collecting fresh data to make sure that it is as can be applied to the population as much as possible.Further more including information on how with qualitative there cannot really many measurement issues particularly with regard to using computers would have been a further detail as it is conducted via interviews and observations etc but there can be issues with regards to the researcher hearing and interpreting something incorrectly. However I do find that apart from this, you have presented your point well and I look forward to your next blog!

24 11 2011
Some homework for my TA— so far « whataloadofblog

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24 11 2011

I agree with your solution to use mix methods to insure the validity of the data. It is possible to use quantitative data to validate quantitative data- and vise verser! It is beginning to seem that you have to choose one or the other as people do have a preference but this shouldn’t exclude using qualitative or quantitate data.

“the question is not whether we should take sides, since we inevitably will, but rather which side we are on?”–Becker 1967

It can be that qualitative data can look into the depth of results of quantitate data and as hammersly (1992) suggest qualitative data studies the meaning as well as causes. Therefore, Although the two methods are different i agree that Joining the two methods in research would be useful in research.

21 11 2011
Homework for my TA week 9 « My Statistical Blog

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21 11 2011

You presented a really well balanced argument! Its great that we can compromise and have a cross between the two so we can get empiricly detailed results. It is hard to say which one comes out on top since they are both used to test very different things so I guess you tailor your analytic depending on what you actually want to test. It is also true that Quantitative methodology is used much more frequently which is I suppose why many people are under the misconception that it is somehow better or more scientific than Qualitative even though they both have their own pros and cons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qualitative,http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method, Gravetter and Forzano Research methods for the behavioural sciences, Tracy Lloyds’ lecture on the Quantitative method

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