In a big picture sense, what are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research?
“Typically, we say that qualitative research is the vehicle for gaining a deep understanding of behaviors, drivers and user needs and is usually conducted across a fairly small sample size. Many are often surprised to hear that patterns typically emerge across as few as six people within a fairly homogenous stakeholder/user group. Quantitative research by comparison has a wider reach across a much larger audience. This method is effective for verifying assumptions and preferences across a broader group of participants in a statistically significant way.
In order to achieve the desired depth of understanding intrinsic to a qualitative approach, methods employed are often more immersive and dynamic. With the kind of product development work that we do, we rely heavily on applied ethnography, which is the combination of observation and interviews within the environment/context of use. We may find ourselves in an OR to observe a surgical procedure, shadowing clinicians in the ICU to understand workflow and interactions or at a patient’s home to learn about their typical treatment regimen. We conduct conversational interviews, often one-on-one, that are open-ended in nature—seeking to dig into perceptions and drivers of behavior.
Comparatively, quantitative research is used to obtain measurable numeric data to create and prove multiple hypotheses across a larger sample size than quantitative studies. It utilizes one-way communication with participants via surveys, polls and questionnaires as well as other succinct and systematic interviews. It’s used to calculate attitudes, opinions, behaviors and other specific variables across a larger target population.”