Comparison of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Approaches

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Research is an important aspect of healthcare as well as in other professions due to the provision of the necessary evidence for practice and new information that can be used in the improvement of the existing systems, decision-making, and for problem solving (Leavy, 2017). Consequently, there is a need to adopt appropriate and suitable methodologies or approaches for collecting, analysing, and presenting data relating to the subject of interest. The purpose of this article is to discuss qualitative and quantitative approaches as the main approaches with the aim of comparing and contrasting the two methodologies as well as highlighting their contribution to knowledge.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative approach refers to a systematic investigation of a phenomenon through the use of quantifiable data followed by statistical, mathematical, and computational analysis. The approach focuses on measurable and numerical data and hence generalising the findings across various groups with the aim of explaining a particular phenomenon. According to Rutberg & Bouikidis (2018) quantitative research approach is vital in nursing to undertake various investigations ranging from clinical trials on new medications to surveying nurses and patients on various issues and hence contributing to knowledge. Data is collected using instruments such as questionnaires, surveys, and polls. Designs used in quantitative approaches include experimental, quasi-experimental, and non-experimental procedures. Benefits of quantitative research include the provision of greater objectivity and accuracy of the research as well as allowing a summary of information from vast sources. Limitations associated with the methodology include the possibility that the research may not allow for the consideration of the contextual aspects as well as the fact that structural bias may arise due to the use of standard questions.

Qualitative Research

A qualitative research methodology entails a detailed exploration of non-numerical data. As a primary exploratory approach, qualitative research involves attempts to obtain understanding of the critical reasons, motivations, opinions, and attitudes (Leavy, 2017). The methodology contributes to nursing knowledge by uncovering the problems and insights into a particular subject from the perspective of key healthcare stakeholders such as nurses, patients, communities. Furthermore, a qualitative research presents a social aspect of the research by focusing on people. An example of a qualitative design may include an investigation of the attitudes and knowledge of nurses of certain hand washing techniques. Sources of qualitative data include observations, participants, focus groups, interviews, and archives. The approach is beneficial in the provision of an analysis of themes in textual data. Limitations of qualitative research include time consuming and difficulty in verification of the results.

Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches

The possible similarity between the quantitative and qualitative research approaches is the essence that they are both used to investigate some aspect of healthcare issues. Apart from the type of data qualitative and quantitative data approaches vary in terms of attributes and characters. While quantitative research is undertaken in a more structured environment, a qualitative study adopts a flexible approach that entails the use of multiple data collection techniques (Schneider, 2013). The approaches also vary in the sense that a qualitative research entails an inquiry and exploratory design. On the other hand, a quantitative study is undertaken with the aim of establishing the cause and effect between the variables. Another difference is the fact that a qualitative research is used for the initial understanding of a phenomenon. On the other hand, quantitative approach is essential for making conclusion regarding the subject matter.  


Research is an important aspect of healthcare by providing critical knowledge that can be used as evidence for making decision and for providing solutions to various problems. Apart from offering new knowledge, research helps in strengthening the existing information by uncovering frameworks and concepts related to the subject. Findings of this study indicate that qualitative quantitative and qualitative designs are the main approaches to conducting a research. However, the two approaches can be combined depending on the research objectives. While there are almost no similarities between the two approaches several differences can be noted between the designs. The methodologies differ in terms of types of data sources, methods of data collection and analysis, and overall objectives. In conclusion, the determination of whether to use qualitative or quantitative approach should be based on the objectives of the particular research while considering the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.


Leavy, P. (2017). Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches. Guilford Publications.

Rutberg, S., & Bouikidis, C. D. (2018). Focusing on the Fundamentals: A Simplistic Differentiation Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research. Nephrology Nursing Journal, 45(2), 209-213.

Schneider, Z. (2013). Nursing and midwifery research: Methods and critical appraisal for evidence-based practice. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Literature Matrix

Search Strategy: (List  databases: Proquest and Elsevier; search terms, keywords and phrases: ‘quantitative’, ‘qualitative’, ‘research’, and ‘healthcare’)



Title /

Research Question


Study Design

Level of Evidence

Findings & key points

Does this paper use or discuss a quantitative approach; qualitative approach or both (mixed methods)? 

What specifically did they do? Surveys; interviews; focus groups; numerical data; statistical analysis?

Is there a comparison of the different approaches to research used within this paper? What are the key points of that comparison?

Conclusion & implications

What are the  benefits of the approach used

What new knowledge does the research approach provide?

What are the overall key points and recommendations?

Limitations of the approach used

Leavy, P. (2017)

Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods, arts-based, and community-based participatory research approaches

Not available

Descriptive analysis

Rutberg, & Bouikidis, (2018)

Focusing on the Fundamentals: A Simplistic Differentiation Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Not available

Descriptive analysis

Schneider (2013)

Nursing and midwifery research: Methods and critical appraisal for evidence-based practice

Not available

October 05, 2023

Learning Healthcare Nursing

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