Research Approaches: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Approaches


Owing to the confusion surrounding research designs and approaches, this guide briefly explores two major research paradigms, namely qualitative and quantitative along with a ‘tier approach’, namely Mixed Method Approach (Creswell, 2003). It should be noted that all the research designs fall either under qualitative or quantitative approach or both, that is mixed research approach. 


Quantitative Research Approach

Quantitative research approach is driven by the researchers with the need to quantify data. It involves a numeric or statistical approach to research design. It is specific in its surveying and experimentation, as it builds upon existing theories. The methodology of a quantitative research maintains the assumption of an empiricist paradigm (Creswell, 2003). The research itself is independent of the researcher. As a result, data is used to objectively measure reality. Quantitative research creates meaning through objectivity uncovered in the collected data. Quantitative researchers seek explanations and predictions that can be generalized to other persons and places. The intent of this approach is to establish, confirm, or validate relationships and to develop generalizations that can contribute to theory (Leedy & Ormrod, 2001, p. 102).


Quantitative research begins with a problem statement and involves the formation of a hypothesis, a literature review, and a quantitative data analysis. Creswell (2003) states that quantitative research “employ strategies of inquiry such as experimental and surveys, and collect data on predetermined instruments that yield statistical data” (p. 18). The findings from quantitative research can be predictive, explanatory, and confirming.


Qualitative Research Approach

Qualitative research is an unfolding model that occurs in a natural setting that enables the researcher to develop a level of detail from high involvement in the actual experiences (Creswell, 1994). One identifier of a qualitative research is the social phenomenon being investigated from the participant’s viewpoint. There are different types of research designs that use qualitative research approach. These include case study, ethnography study, phenomenological study, grounded theory study, and content analysis. These five areas are representative of research that is built upon inductive reasoning and associated methodologies.


What constitutes qualitative research involves purposeful use for describing, explaining, and interpreting the collected data. Leedy and Ormrod (2001) allege that qualitative research is less structured in description because it formulates and builds new theories. It is an effective model that occurs in a natural setting that enables the researcher to develop a level of detail from being highly involved in the actual experiences (Creswell, 2003).


Conclusion: Quantitative and qualitative research methods investigate and explore the different claims to knowledge and both methods are designed to address a specific type of research question. While the quantitative method provides an objective measure of reality, the qualitative method allows the researcher to explore and better understand the complexity of a phenomenon in a subjective manner. Although each approach seeks to validate sensory knowledge as truth, neither is absolute in its form and neither is superior to the other.



Creswell, J. W. (1994). Research design: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

___________ (2003). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Leedy, P. & Ormrod, J. (2001). Practical research: Planning and design (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.

Johnson, R. B. & Onwuegbuzie, A. J. (2004). Mixed methods research: A research paradigm whose time has come. Educational Researcher, 33(7), 14-26.