An analysis of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods Essay


While quantitative and qualitative investigations are two legitimate ways to investigate leadership, some researchers represent empirical research differently. Everet and Louis (1981), quoted by Lewis (2015), clarify the assumptions based on the distinction between two research sites: “Out of Investigation,” which is often conducted through qualitative studies and “internal research” through qualitative studies. These approaches differ in the degree of immersion of a researcher in terms of experience engagement, direct contact with subjects, and physical involvement in the environment. In an “internal” or qualitative approach, the researcher intends for a holistic image of historically unique situations where there are significant meanings for idiosyncrasies.

Scientific research generally consists of an investigation that (Smith, 2015):

  • seeks answers to the question;
  • systematically uses a predetermined set of procedures to answer the question;
  • Collect evidence;
  • compile findings that were not predetermined; usable outside the immediate boundaries of the study.


Qualitative Research

Qualitative research shares these characteristics. Additionally, it seeks to understand a given research problem or topic from the perspectives of the local population it involves. Qualitative research is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, opinions, behaviors, and social contexts of particular populations. Lewis (2015) defines qualitative research as “a form of systematic empirical inquiry into meaning”. By systematic he means “planned, ordered and public”, following rules agreed upon by members of the qualitative research community. By empirical, he means that this type of inquiry is grounded in the world of experience. Inquiry into meaning says researchers try to understand how others make sense of their experience. Quinlan et al (2019) claim that qualitative research involves an interpretive and naturalistic approach: “This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them”.

The advantages of doing qualitative research on leadership include (Lewis, 2015):

  • flexibility to follow unexpected ideas during research and explore processes effectively;
  • sensitivity to contextual factors;
  • ability to study symbolic dimensions and social meaning;
  • increased opportunities o to develop empirically supported new ideas and theories for in-depth and longitudinal explorations of leadership phenomena and for more relevance and interest for practitioners.

The strength of qualitative research is its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue (Bell et al., 2018). It provides information about the “human” side of an issue – that is, the often contradictory behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals. Qualitative methods are also effective in identifying intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion, whose role in the researchissue may not be readily apparent. Smith (2015) states that when used along with quantitative methods, qualitative research can help us to interpret and better understand the complex reality of a given situation and the implications of quantitative data. Although findings from qualitative data can often be extended to people with characteristics similar to those in the study population, gaining a rich and complex understanding of a specific social context or phenomenon typically takes precedence over eliciting data that can be generalized to other geographical areas or populations (Quinlan et al., 2019). In this sense, qualitative research differs slightly from scientific research in general.


Quantitative Research

Different researchers and educators give different definitions to “quantitative research.” Here are some of them: Quantitative research is the numerical representation and manipulation of observations for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that those observations reflect. It is used in a wide variety of natural and social sciences, including physics, biology, psychology, sociology and geology (Smith, 2015). In addition, according to Cohen (1980) as cited by Bell et al (2018), quantitative research is defined as social research that employs empirical methods and empirical statements. He states that an empirical statement is defined as a descriptive statement about what “is” the case in the “real world” rather than what “ought” to be the case. Typically, empirical statements are expressed in numerical terms.

Another factor in quantitative research is that empirical evaluations are applied. Empirical evaluations are defined as a form that seeks to determine the degree to which a specific program or policy empirically fulfills or does not fulfill a particular standard or norm. Moreover, Smith (2015) has given a very concise definition of quantitative research as a type of research that is `explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics).’Therefore, because quantitative research is essentially about collecting numerical data to explain a particular phenomenon, particular questions seem immediately suited to being answered using quantitative methods. For example,

  • How many students learning Economics I get A’s in the first semester?
  • What percentage of the students learning Economics I has negative attitudes towards the course?
  • On average, is there any significant difference between the general Economics proficiency of the students learning Economics I and Economics II courses?


Conclusion: Strengths and Weaknesses of Both Methods

Coburn and Penuel (2016) argue that a quantitative research approach in its epistemological and ontological orientation regards human behavior as an object that can be controlled, thus ignoring opinions and contributions unlike a qualitative approach. Qualitative research approaches help define what needs to be studied when there is no subject theory and variables are not known (Lewis, 2015), as opposed to quantitative approaches that use the theory to generate data. In a positivist research attempt to reduce prejudices in collecting and interpreting data, it separates from participants. This separation always leads the researcher to better understand, interpret and explain the phenomena studied.

In addition, the selected variables with which the quantitative researcher deals, will only allow access to certain selected aspects of personal beliefs or activities (Quinlan et al., 2019), unlike subjects. Qualitative research has no structured approach and is based on the interpretations and inventiveness of researchers that collect, interpret and analyze data. It is argued that it would not be possible to carry out the same research and get the same result at any other time and place. In other words, qualitative research is not replicable as opposed to quantitative research. (Smith, 2015) Testing hypotheses Quantitative researchers attempt to investigate the causes and effects of relationships that allow them to predict and generalize their findings in a relevant larger population. It is not possible with high-quality researchers who consider human behavior to be dynamic and as such seeks to understand the beliefs and values ​​of the research that is being carried out (Coburn and Penuel, 2016).









Lewis, S., 2015. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Health promotion practice16(4), pp.473-475.

Quinlan, C., Babin, B., Carr, J. and Griffin, M., 2019. Business research methods. South Western Cengage.

Smith, J.A. ed., 2015. Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. Sage.

Bell, E., Bryman, A. and Harley, B., 2018. Business research methods. Oxford university press.

Coburn, C.E. and Penuel, W.R., 2016. Research–practice partnerships in education: Outcomes, dynamics, and open questions. Educational Researcher45(1), pp.48-54.


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