Qualitative research methods are used in many different fields, especially in the social sciences and education. With qualitative research, whatever is being studied (e.g., human behavior, animal behavior, marketing strategies, community dynamics, program effectiveness) is explored in context. Researchers look closely at the factors that influence their research population and try to correlate findings with key characteristics of that population. The researcher usually does not introduce treatments or manipulate variables. Rather, they gather data through interviews, detailed case studies or certain kinds of surveys. They also use existing data sets extensively for background research and to corroborate findings and conclusions. Along with conceptualizing the research and carrying out the data collecting, researchers involved in qualitative research also word questionnaires and surveys, and conduct one-on-one interviews with project participants. In addition, qualitative research offers flexibility, as researchers can adjust the scope and techniques for collecting data as patterns emerge. Table 7 summarizes some of the key differences between qualitative and quantitative research methods described in earlier sections of this publication.

TABLE 7. Difference Between Quantitative and Qualitative Research

General goals of investigation Predicting, comparing, confirming, hypothesis testing, how much, how many Understanding, explaining, hypothesis generating, why and how
Design of studies Established protocols, structured Flexible, evolving, emergent
Sample Large, random, representative Small, selective, purposeful, non-random
Data collection Researcher uses instruments to measure, weigh, calculate Researcher interacts directly with study participants through interviews and focus groups
Mode of analysis Deductive using statistical methods Inductive through dialog and interaction to discover patterns
Findings Precise, narrow, reductionist, generalizable Comprehensive, holistic, expansive, not generalizable