The two basic research approaches are quantitative and qualitative research. Both types have different purposes.
Quantitative research is statistics-based. It involves questions that can best be answered in numbers. To get the statistics, researchers often conduct experiments or give surveys. They then analyze the numbers with statistical models to see what the data tells them.
Qualitative research is description-based. Qualitative researchers observe and interview people. They take observations of people or events and analyze it through qualitative methods. They look for trends, just as quantitative researchers do with statistics, but they don’t use numbers to find them.
- the main focus is on measuring 'how much is happening to how many people'.
- the main tools are large scale surveys analysed using statistical techniques. Quantitative measurable indicators relevant to the pre-determined hypotheses are identified and combined into questionnaires.
- questionnaires are then conducted for a random sample or stratified random sample of individuals, often including a control group.
- causality is assessed through comparison of the incidence of the variables under consideration between main sample and control group and/or the degree to which they co-occur.
- in large-scale research projects teams are composed of a number of skilled research designers and analysts assisted by teams of local enumerators.
- Qualitative Methods
- typically focuses on compiling a selection of microlevel Case Studies investigated using a combination of informal interviews, participant observation and more recently visual media like photography and video.
- questions are broad and open-ended and change and develop over time to fill in a 'jigsaw' of differing accounts of 'reality', unravelling which may be said to be generally 'true' and which are specific and subjective and why.
- different sampling methods are combined: different purposive sampling techniques, identification of key informants and also 'random encounters'.
- Causality and attribution are directly investigated through questionning as well as qualitative analysis of data. Computer programmes are used to deal systematically with large amounts of data.
- typically requires long-term immersion of a skilled researcher in the field who engages in a reflexive process of data collection and analsysis.