Qualitative and quantitative methods

5 May 2016

Qualitative and quantitative methods of user research play important roles in product development. Data from quantitative research—such as market size, demographics, and user preferences—provides important information for business decisions.

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Qualitative research provides valuable data for use in the design of a product—including data about user needs, behavior patterns, and use cases. Each of these approaches has strengths and weaknesses, and each can benefit from our combining them with one another.

Qualitative Research is used to understand and interpret social interactions were as using Quantitative Research hypotheses are tested, cause and effect is looked at and predictions are made.

For qualitative analysis, small nonrandom groups are used to collect data like Words, images, or objects were as for quantitative research a large randomly selected group is used to collect data that is Numbers and statistics. Qualitative data is collected using open- ended responses, interviews, participant observations, field notes, & reflections were as Quantitative is collected by precise measurements using structured & validated data-collection instruments.

For qualitative research, Subjectivity is expected were as for qualitative research Objectivity is critical. Results of Qualitative Research are Particular or specialized findings that are less generalizable were as Quantitative Research results are Generalizable findings that can be applied to other populations. Qualitative research is by definition exploratory, and it is used when we don’t know what to expect, to define the problem or develop an approach to the problem. It’s also used to go deeper into issues of interest and explore nuances related to the problem at hand.

Common data collection methods used in qualitative research are focus groups, triads, dyads, in-depth interviews, uninterrupted observation, bulletin boards, and ethnographic participation/observation. Quantitative research is conclusive in its purpose as it tries to quantify the problem and understand how prevalent it is by looking for projectable results to a larger population. Here we collect data through surveys (online, phone, paper), audits, points of purchase (purchase transactions), and click-streams.

Qualitative research is useful for studies at the individual level, and to find out, in depth, the ways in which people think or feel (e.g. case studies).

Analysis of qualitative data is difficult and requires accurate description of participant responses, for example, sorting responses to open questions and interviews into broad themes. Quotations from diaries or interviews might be used to illustrate points of analysis. Expert knowledge of an area is necessary to try to interpret qualitative data and great care must be taken when doing so, for example, if looking for symptoms of mental illness.

Quantitative research gathers data in numerical form which can be put into categories, or in rank order, or measured in units of measurement. This type of data can be used to construct graphs and tables of raw data. Experiments typically yield quantitative data, as they are concerned with measuring things. However, other research methods, such as observations and questionnaires can produce both quantitative and qualitative information.

For example, a rating scale or closed questions on a questionnaire would generate quantitative data as these produce either numerical data or data that can be put into categories (e.g. “yes”, “no” answers). Whereas open-ended questions would generate qualitative information as they are a descriptive response. A good example of a qualitative research method would be the case study. Let’s consider an oil painting for qualitative and quantitative analysis Oil Painting

Qualitative data:
blue/green color, gold frame
smells old and musty
texture shows brush strokes of oil paint
peaceful scene of the country
masterful brush strokes

Oil Painting
Quantitative data:
picture is 10″ by 14″
with frame 14″ by 18″
weighs 8.5 pounds
surface area of painting is 140 sq. in.
cost $300

When setting out to perform user research—whether performing the research yourself or assigning it to an employee or a consultant—it is important to understand the different applications of these two approaches to research.

This understanding can help you to choose the appropriate research approach yourself, understand why a researcher has chosen a particular approach, or communicate with researchers or stakeholders about a research approach and your overarching research strategy.

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