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What’s the difference and when to use which method.

Marketers often debate which form of research should be used or which form of research is better than the other – qualitative or quantitative. The truth is both methods are highly effective and impactful. The determination of which methodology to use should be driven by the topic that is being studied and the desired outcome of the research.
Simply stated – if your study is looking for numerical evidence to answer a specific question, then you should use quantitative research. If however, you want to take a broader view of a topic or better understand human behavior/attitudes and help answer the question “why”, then you should make use of qualitative research.

Below is a cheat sheet that lines up both forms of research from a comparative standpoint. Reviewing the overview can help you guide your thinking in terms of which form of research to use. The source for this comparative overview is Educational Research: Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Approaches by Larry Christensen and R. Burke Johnson.

In some instances both forms of research will be utilized for a given project. In this case – it’s often beneficial to lead with the qualitative research – to get a broader view of topic studied. As the perspective comes to light through the qualitative efforts – a quantitative study can be developed to more precisely answer key questions/issues or topics that came out of the qualitative study.

Joe Myers

Author Joe Myers

Joe is the Executive Account Director at InQuest Marketing. He leads the charge on several key accounts and research initiatives, and supports new business efforts. Joe's favorite InQuest memory is moving into the current (larger) office space following tremendous growth as an organization. He is a former Peace Corps volunteer whose hobbies include gardening and swimming.

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