When to Choose Quantitative, Not Qualitative Research?

Quantitative research

Quantitative surveys make it possible to know, first of all, the answer to the question "how many?". They are conducted on large samples of respondents, representative of the population under study. A wide range of statistical methods are used for both sampling and calculations and interpretation of results.

Examples of questions, like "how many" are:
- How many people prefer our product to its substitute created by competitors?
- How many people find product X interesting?
- How many people use product Y?
- How many people are using the Z service?
- How many people watched the X commercial?

An important part in planning a quantitative survey is the appropriate selection of the sample size. When determining it, we should take into account such factors as the range of variability of the measured phenomenon in the population, the size of the population under study, or the size of the potential measurement error that we accept. Quantitative surveys are most often conducted by means of questionnaires. They involve collecting answers to questions from a questionnaire prepared for a predetermined number of respondents. Based on the results of such a survey, we can estimate how common a certain phenomenon or opinion is in the general population. However, the surveyed sample will never perfectly represent the opinion that occurs among the entire population, and thus, when analyzing the results, we must bear in mind that our result is very often subject to statistical error.

Data obtained from quantitative surveys conducted on different groups are easily comparable, and can be easily visualized with graphs. The most popular forms of quantitative research are: CATI - computer-assisted telephone interviewing, CAWI - interviews conducted via the Internet using a questionnaire provided to respondents, PAPI and CAPI - face-to-face interviews. Quantitative research is most often useful when you want to determine: market shares, the amount of demand for a particular good or the incidence of a phenomenon.

Qualitative research

Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research allows you to learn primarily about the answer to the "how?" question. They are conducted on small groups of respondents or even individuals. They mainly focus on factors that are difficult to measure.

Examples of questions, such as "how?" are:
- How was our brand promoted in the previous year?
- Why did you choose our company's product and not a competing substitute?
- How do you use the product/service?
- Why did you choose this particular product (motivations, needs)?

Qualitative research is characterized by great freedom of the respondent to formulate his answers. This gives the interviewer more unique, in-depth and detailed information about the phenomenon he is studying. In addition, thanks to this, the interviewer has a chance to learn about and draw attention to previously unnoticed problems. The results of qualitative research, unlike quantitative research, are unrepresentative and incomparable, which makes it much more difficult to draw general conclusions based on them. This is why qualitative research is often underpinned by quantitative research, which often allows investigators to determine which phenomena they should focus on.

A major advantage, but also a problem, of qualitative research is its great depth. Thanks to it, the interviewer can, understand the motives of the surveyed person's behavior and learn about their associations with various brands or products, which guide their behavior when choosing goods or services. In addition, they allow to see what influence stereotypes or thought patterns have on consumer choice. On the other hand, the disadvantage of high depth is that it results in high time and labor intensity of a given survey, which results in a much smaller number of people surveyed than in the case of quantitative research. Qualitative research is most often conducted in the form of an interview or experiment. Its most popular forms are FGI, or focus group interview, and IDI, or individual in-depth interview. Qualitative research is useful when you want to: identify a new market, determine the motivations and beliefs of consumers or get a broader perspective on a phenomenon.

When will quantitative research be better than qualitative research?

Both quantitative and qualitative research have their advantages and disadvantages and are used when we want to draw different conclusions. First of all, it should be noted that qualitative research allows researchers to understand a given phenomenon, while quantitative research mainly provides investigators with extensive numerical data, which they can then analyze to draw appropriate conclusions. In order to choose the right method, one should prepare for it properly. Researchers should first of all define the research problem, determine the purpose of the study, and then proceed with a plan that includes the research method or methods that will be used in the process. Quantitative studies will work better to qualitative ones when we want to establish the scale of a phenomenon and determine its numerical relative or absolute characteristics. They provide the possibility of statistical inference, which is useful when we want to determine the level of the studied phenomenon among the entire population. We should choose this type of survey when we are looking for information on the state or trend of a phenomenon in the market. In addition, it also allows us to estimate the amount of demand for a given good or service and in which groups (e.g., ethnic, age, occupational, etc.) they are most popular. We should also use this method when we want to determine the frequency and the most popular periods of the phenomenon under study.

We can compare and relate quantitative surveys to the entire population, which is due to the fact that they are performed on much larger groups of people than qualitative surveys. Their results are more reliable and have less error and risk of the survey being unrepresentative. Thanks to the numerical results obtained and various statistical methods, we can also estimate what a trend will look like in a few years. In addition, collecting the results of quantitative research in most cases is not as time-consuming as in the case of qualitative research, so those with very limited time to conduct a survey should opt for the quantitative method


Although, in theory, qualitative and quantitative research have the same goal, that is, to study some phenomenon in a given market, they are very different. Qualitative research will work better when we are looking for more accurate information based on the subjective feelings of the respondent, while qualitative research will work better when we want to find out how the situation in the market presents itself in a more general and population-specific way. Neither method is inferior or superior, both are very useful, and only a combination of them will give the survey full information on a given phenomenon, but simultaneous use is not always necessary

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