Research Approach: Should I Choose Quantitative or Qualitative Research? | Research Design Methods

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Research Approach: Should I Choose Quantitative or Qualitative Research?


Reasearch Design Methods When we already have defined our research problems, the next question comes is how to answer those questions? In research, the way to answer research questions is by research design. But, what is research design? In short explanation research design is our blueprint to conduct research. It guides us on how the research should be conducted, i.e. how to collect the data, how many respondents we need, how to analyze the data gained, etc. In tailoring research design the first thing to do is deciding whether we will use Qualitative Research or Quantitative Research approach in our research project. Some researchers use both qualitative and quantitative research in their projects. Which approach will be used depends on our research objectives.

Qualitative Research
Qualitative research is a research approach whose main purpose is to explore something or to gain new understanding about particular material. Qualitative research usually is formed in narrative paragraph rather than using numbers and statistical analysis. Sample used in qualitative research is less than in quantitative research. In quantitative research we may use hundreds of respondent, but in qualitative research we need only dozens. Data retrieval methods in qualitative research typically use focus groups, interviews, and/or other projective techniques. Qualitative research is widely used in marketing research and various social studies which investigates the unseen factors of human behavior, e.g. if you intend to do research to determine what factors are to be considered someone choosing a hospital then you should use a qualitative research rather than quantitative research. In that example you have no idea about factors motivating consumers to choose any specific hospital, so that you need to explore all possible factors, not counting the influence of these factors.

Quantitative Research
Quantitative research is the opposite of the qualitative research approach. In contrast to qualitative research whose main objective is to explore all possible factors (called variables), quantitative research are aimed to test the relationship among those variables, e.g. you want to calculate the increasing of your market share after the launch of a new promotion program. If we use quantitative research approach, we will use many statistical calculations in our research projects and also bigger number of respondents than in qualitative research.

Components in Research Approach
Components in research approach are things that underlying our research design. If research design specifies the details of procedures necessary for obtaining information needed, however, research approach is theoritical foundation underlying our research design.
In general, there are five components in developing research approach:

1. Theoritical framework
We remember that research should be based on objective evidence and supported by theory, i.e. a conceptual scheme based on foundational statements, or axioms, that are assumed to be true. This theory provides us information about what variables should be investigated and how those variables should be measured. In conducting research, theoritical framework helps us develop research questions and analitical model. If we want to investigate what factors motivate consumers’ intention to buy a cosmetic, we will need to check any theories related to consumer behavior from journal research and other references. For example, we found Theory of Planed of Behavior (TPB) that we assume could explain that phenomena. According to TPB there are three factors that influence someone intention to do or not to do something, which are: attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.

2. Analitical model
After we could find theory to explain our research probelm, we gain potential variables needed to investigate and their relationships. To simplify our research, we may transform those theoritical frameworks into an analitical model. Originally, there are three form of analitical models : verbal model, graphical model, and mathematical model. Verbal model is a written representative of the relationship between variablels. However, graphical model uses graphics or pictures to explain those variables. And, mathematical model requires us to write the relationship among varibles were figured out in an equation form. You can see the example of those three models as below (noted that we use the Theory of Planned Behavior from the explanation above) :

  • Verbal model : There are three factors that affect consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics, which are attituse, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control.
  • Graphical model


  • Mathematical model


I = A0 + SN + PBC

which are:

I = consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics.
A0 = consumers’ attitude toward cosmetics.
SN = subjective norm related to cosmetics.
PBC = consumers’ perceived behavioral control toward cosmetics.

3. Research questions
Research questions are any specific questions which we want to investigate through our research. From theoritical frame above, we develop three questions as below:

  • Does attitude toward cosmetics affect consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics?
  • Does consumers’ subjective norms affect consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics?
  • Does perceived behavioral control really affect consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics?

Note that the questions above are aimed to examine the relationship between the variables examined, so that later we will use a quantitative analysis.

4. Research questions
From research questions and therotical framework above, we build several hypothesis. Hypothesis is a proposition about variable that a researcher interested in, or we can say that hypothesis is an allegations answer based on theory we have gained to answer our research questions. For instance, according to questions above we make three hypothesis:

H1 : Consumers’ attitude toward cosmetics positively affects consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics.
H2 : Positive subjective norms will motivate consumers intention to purchase cosmetics.
H3 : Consumers’ perceived behavioral control also positively affects consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics.
You can see the relationship between research questions and hypothesis as below:


5. Specification of Information Needed
It is any specific information required in our research. We collect this information by focusing on each component in our research questions. Let us consider on the previous case about consumers’ intention to purchase cosmetics. From the Attitude component we need to ask about how consumers think about particular cosmetics, how is their preference on consumers, their habit in consuming cosmetics, etc. From Subjective Norms component, we may need to ask about who is their reference in using cosmetics, who becomes the motivator to buy specific cosmetics, and how their reference group response to some cosmetics, etc. From Perceived Behavioral Control component we can ask about how is their perception in their ability to buy and to consume cosmetics, etc.

We already know two general research approaches. Remember that in choosing approach basically depends on the purpose of the study. If our goal is to explore a phenomenon would be better if we use qualitative research.


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