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University Students' Orientations to Qualitative & Quantitative Research Methods

by Kate Beck

College courses require you to have a good understanding of qualitative and quantitative research methods to help you evaluate and understand the information presented. This will also help you research and write your own essays and papers. Both types of research have specific qualities that will prove useful while pursuing your degree, but if you plan to pursue a career in a research field, a solid grasp of qualitative and quantitative methods will be necessary to succeed.

Description of Research Methods

Qualitative research looks at the large picture of your topic. You may use your opinion or observations to evaluate the information you gather to reach conclusions or identify patterns in your research. When using quantitative research, you will look at facts such as measurements and the results of scientific experiments. You will not make conjectures based on the data, but you will use the data to prove your ideas. Essentially, qualitative research helps you explore a topic while quantitative helps you confirm theories or hypotheses.

Conducting the Research

When performing qualitative research, you can refer to most any source of information, including books, quality internet sources and quotes from experts in the field. If the research involves certain topics, such as in a social science, you may need to conduct a number of interviews, asking test subjects the same set of questions to gain the information you need. Quantitative research relies solely on precise results and measurements from accurate devices or processes. Qualitative researchers may only have a vague idea of what their research will uncover while quantitative researchers know what they are looking for. It is important to note that qualitative research is more subjective, while quantitative research is more objective.

What the Research Looks Like

Qualitative research will typically consist of words and objects. You may also need to evaluate pictures or other materials that require you to form an opinion. In quantitative research, you will look at numbers, graphs and statistics. The data will most likely stem directly from scientific experiments, but they could come from the results of surveys given to research participants.

The End Result

After conducting your research, you will often use this to write research papers or essays to discuss your findings. In a paper involving qualitative research, you will describe how you conducted the research, including any interviews you conducted and how you chose your test subjects. Explain your findings and observations, and end your paper by drawing conclusions based on your findings. Qualitative research papers should focus on the experiment process and the resulting data. Include any charts or graphs to show the information you collected. You can conclude your paper with a comparison or evaluation of the findings and how these confirm or disprove your starting theory or hypothesis.

About the Author

Kate Beck started writing for online publications in 2005. She worked as a certified ophthalmic technician for 10 years before returning to school to earn a Masters of Fine Arts degree in writing. Beck is currently putting the finishing touches on a novel.

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