The difference between qualitative and quantitative research lies in their statistical analysis approach, type of data used, and purpose. While quantitative research deals with numerical data through its exploration, inductive logic, and information discovery to understand a phenomenon, quantitative research is inherently different as it deepens new knowledge. Quantitative research uses experimental data and assesses the causal relationship between variables, thereby allowing for hypothesis testing. In sum, quantitative research is objective while qualitative research is subjective: meaning, while qualitative research develops theories, quantitative research tests theories.
Both qualitative and quantitative research methods are applicable in nursing studies depending on the research objective. Both methods can increase the validity and reliability of nursing research. Reliability “increases the ‘soundness’ of research,” as it is the “consistency of the analytical procedures used” while validity is the “integrity and application of the methods used and precision in the data” (Noble & Smith, 2015). In this regard, researchers using qualitative methods must ensure that their research has validity: meaning, the study should have rigor, be adequately justified, and use appropriate methods that are transparent and without bias. An example of qualitative research in nursing is monitoring chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to advance primary healthcare. Researchers using the quantitative approach must also ensure their studies are reliable – that is, they are replicable. The researcher should ensure they achieve content, construct, and criterion validity. An example of a quantitative study in nursing includes assessing ways to lower patient falls in hospitals.
Qualitative and quantitative research methods have strengths and limitations in the context of nursing. The numerical representation of quantitative data makes it ideal for studying a large population; hence, its results can be generalized (Queirós et al., 2017). The research method focuses on objectivity and is appropriate when data is available and variables are defined. In contrast, a qualitative study is non-numerical and is thus ideal for deepening knowledge on a subject. In nursing, qualitative studies are ideal for understanding the social relations and dynamics that influences nursing and the medical field.
Qualitative and quantitative research methods are distinct in their approach to modeling and analyzing phenomena. However, they are both required to ensure the validity and reliability of the results. Both methodologies offer limitations and potentialities depending on the research objective and comparative analysis.
Noble, H., & Smith, J. (2015). Issues of validity and reliability in qualitative research. Evidence-based Nursing, 18(2), 34-35. Web.
Queirós, A., Faria, D., & Almeida, F. (2017). Strengths and limitations of qualitative and quantitative research methods. European Journal of Education Studies, 3(9), 369-386. Web.