Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research Methods

When you're conducting any kind of research, whether it's customer or market research, you're trying to gain a deeper understanding of something.  What something is obviously depends on the goals of the project.  The second step of a market research study is to decide on methods and data collection techniques.  All collection methods are either qualitative or quantitative, but what's the difference?

Qualitative research methods provides the answers to how or why.  These methods are ideal when there is no fixed set of questions, but when a discussion is more effective to explore issues.  Qualitative research discussions are determined by the respondent's opinions and feelings. Largely, qualitative research is done face to face, most commonly in focus groups of 6-8 respondents. 

Quantitative research focuses more on the ability to complete statistical analysis.  With quantitative studies, each respondent is asked to respond to the same questions:

Quantitative Research: Exmaple Survey Question

Quantitative Research: Example Survey Question
Example Survey Questions

Surveys and questionnaires are the most common technique for collecting quantitative data.  With online survey tools becoming more available with advanced features, more researchers are adopting web based survey collection for quantitative research.  

As you might imagine, quantitative research can often be cheaper than qualitative research - but cheaper may not always save you in the long run.  It's important to always consider the market research goals when determining your collection method.  For example, if you need to understand how respondents brush their teeth to improve the design of a toothbrush, choosing quantitative research method is probably not the way to go.
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