Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

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  • 0:05 Research in the Social…
  • 0:54 Quantitative Research
  • 3:12 Qualitative Research
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Long-Crowell
In this lesson, we identify the differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods in the social sciences. We also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

Research in the Social Sciences

Research is an extremely important part of sociology, psychology and all of the other social sciences. Researchers strive to systematically collect information in order to create accurate and objective descriptions of the social world. This allows them to draw conclusions about why people act the way they do in all types of situations and in relation to other people.

Research occurs in many different forms and can be divided into two basic types: quantitative and qualitative. The focus of this lesson is to explain the difference between quantitative research and qualitative research and discuss their respective strengths and weaknesses.

Quantitative Research

The first type of research that social scientists use is quantitative research, which is based on numerical data, which can be analyzed using statistics. This type of research focuses on pinpointing what, where, when, how often and how long social phenomena occur. For example, imagine you wanted to research jaywalking at a certain intersection. If you were to conduct quantitative research, you could count the number of people who jaywalk.

Quantitative research includes experiments in which certain variables are manipulated and the outcomes measured. It also includes studies conducted in the natural world - the U.S. Census is a good example. Numerical data can be collected through machines, surveys, inventories and more. Again, the numbers can be analyzed using statistics. The analysis can tell us the relationship between certain variables.

This leads us into a discussion about the advantages of quantitative research. One advantage is the fact that we can use statistics to extrapolate the data collected in order to predict how people will behave in the future. For instance, let's say you not only counted the number of people who jaywalked, but also collected other information, such as age and gender. If you recorded 20 people jaywalking, and 15 of them were men, you might predict that a man would be much more likely to jaywalk than a woman.

Quantitative research produces statistics that can be used to predict behaviors.
Quantitative Research Data From Statistics

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