Quantitative research, according to Aliaga and Gunderson (2000), is "explaining phenomena by collecting numerical data that are analyzed using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics)." It's a formal, objective, and systematic process, and it's one that is absolutely integral to scholarly and professional research.
On the other hand qualitative research attempts to understand a specific organization or event and does not involve the description of a sample from a population. It can provide an explicit representation of a structure, order, and general patterns from a group of participants and generates data about human groups in social settings. It provides an understanding through direct experience, reporting, and interpretation from direct conversations.
If you're undertaking your dissertation or a research study and attempting to settle on a research design, keep these points in mind:
Settling on a research design can only be done after you've determined your exact research question. Once you critically consider the question that you're attempting to answer, your data collection methods will become clear.
If your research question steers you towards a quantitative research design, you will need to match the design with the research question. Consider the four different types of research: descriptive ("What is this?"), correlational ("What is happening?"), quasi-experimental ("What would happen if?"), and experimental ("How can I make it happen?"). Once you determine a fit, only then can you proceed with your research.
If you are collecting numerical data, you are likely measuring variables and verifying or questioning existing theories or hypotheses. Only once you collect data at an appropriate sample size will you be able to fully examine relationships amongst variables – and determine the cause-and-effect relationships.
Dr. Carlos Cardillo is a faculty member and Ph.D. mentor at Trident. He is an experienced professional attuned to the ever-changing needs of organizations who utilizes a unique blend of business acumen, scientific research, project management, and state-of-the-art technology development. He has over 25 years of experience working in projects requiring the ability to identify areas needing vision and projection in the health science arena, including scientific, clinical, neurophysiological, and human factor research design, implementation, administration, and finances. He has professional experience in military, academic, and private institutions.