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Surveys are pretty much the usual part of our lives. We come across various kinds of surveys on various platforms almost every day. Surveys have proven to be the best way to gather information and insights for businesses.
Amidst all the ways of conducting surveys and analyzing them, we are left with one question. Are surveys qualitative or quantitative research? Well as deeper as this topic gets, let us dive into it and figure out an answer for ourselves.
Before understanding the nature of surveys, let us first uncover what type of research is a survey.
Our very reliable Wikipedia says, “A survey is a list of questions aimed for extracting specific data from a particular group of people”. So if we go to someone personally and ask questions that can give us information on our research, can we call it a survey? Yes, we can.
What we can conclude is that a survey, is a set of questions asked to a selected sample of the population. Their answers are valuable in order to gain insights on our business or any conducted research. As there are various ways of conducting a survey both offline and online, businesses take the help of online survey software, like Voxco to create surveys that can reach millions of people in no time.
Following a well-compiled questionnaire and well-studied approach, a survey can do wonders for your strategies in the market. Not only huge businesses but all sorts of researchers have benefited from using surveys as their basic source of information and insights.
So now that we have established what type of research is a survey, let’s dig deep into understanding the purpose of this blog – Are surveys qualitative or quantitative research?
Before we decide what type of research is a survey, let us understand these two types of research by a simple comparison table for a better and clear understanding. As much as both are important in data analysis, they have their differences.
It is expressed in numbers and graphs
It is expressed in words and sentences
They are used to confirm theories and assumptions
They are used to understand concepts, expressions, thoughts, etc.
Can be used to have generalized facts about something
Can be used to have deep insights into complex topics
Observations are recorded as numbers
Observations are recorded in words, theories
Uses close-ended questions
Uses open-ended questions
Results are calculated through maths and statistical formulas
Results are analysed by categorizing, summarizing and interpretation the data
Given the basic difference between the two approaches of research, the points are pretty clear.
Apart from those factors, there is still a lot of digging we have to do into each of those to understand- Are surveys qualitative or quantitative research? So, let’s focus on what is qualitative and quantitative research, their benefits, and examples.
Read about Quantitative Research Vs Qualitative Research.
Quantitative research refers to the statistical approach of quantifying and analyzing collected data. It focuses on confirming or testing a theory or an assumption. A sample of a large population is studied to find out the repeating patterns and themes.
Quantitative research can be carried out to gather insights into people’s attitudes or choices or behaviors through gathering inputs from various sets of people.
Quantitative research brings in numerical data which you can quantify and analyze in a matter of seconds using an online survey tool. However, there are more such benefits of quantitative research as we have mentioned below.
Let us take a look at what type of questions make the researchers use the quantitative research approach:
Let’s take a look at the other research type – qualitative research.
The qualitative research approach summarizes and interprets data. The data is gathered through conversations, interviews, questionnaires, etc. This data is in the form of words, sentences, and theories and is used to understand people’s views about a topic, concepts, and expressions.
It focuses not only on ‘what” people think but also on “why” they think that. A qualitative approach is the best fit for understanding complex topics in depth.
Qualitative research helps you hear the unfiltered voice of your audience. Here are some of the benefits of using qualitative research for surveys.
You can freely use the qualitative research approach if your research problems look something like these:
This sums up the two types of research methodology and the data you gather from it. Now, let’s see when you can use the two approaches which will bring us closer to the answer – are surveys qualitative or quantitative research?
After understanding both the approaches pretty well, let us take a look at when to use what approach:
Use quantitative research when:
Use qualitative research when:
You want to test something.
You want to understand something.
Data is in numeric format.
Data is in words and sentences.
Questions are close-ended.
Questions are open-ended.
Your problem statement is a generally accepted fact.
Your problem statement is a cause-effect question.
You want to have a count of something.
When you want to have a deep meaning and understanding of something.
Let us take an example to understand how one research can be conducted using two different approaches.
Research problem: How happy are the elderly with today’s social media?
Quantitative approach: You will ask a group of elderly people a close-ended question like “On a scale of 1-5, how happy are you with today’s social media?”
To which you will have categorical data and you can conclude something like “74% of elderly are not happy with today’s social media”.
Qualitative approach: you will be free to ask open-ended questions like “How happy are the elderly with today’s social media?”, “What is that one thing you think has changed the most?”.
This will allow you to ask more questions and get a deeper understanding of why the elderly are not happy.
Surveys can be created using both research methods. You can create surveys that are only qualitative in nature. Or, surveys that are only quantitative in nature.
Both the quantitative and qualitative approaches are legitimate in their ways, you can use a mixed methods approach. This method allows you to carry out both approaches. The main benefit of using a mixed-methods approach is that you can bring out statistical as well as categorical conclusions from your research data.
For instance, you can ask open-ended to understand the new insights into the matter. You can also ask close-ended questions to get a numeric count about the matter. Both these conclusions will result in a better analysis of the question in research.
This answers our main question – Are surveys qualitative or quantitative research? You can create surveys that use closed-ended questions and collect numerical data or uses open-ended questions and collects textual or audio data.
In any case, surveys can gather insights that can help you better understand your customers and take business decisions confidently.
Create powerful and effective surveys with various question types using online survey software.
The quantitative survey can be the best fit for market research. It allows researchers to compare various factors with each other and bring out what’s best in the market.
As most of the surveys are quantitative, a qualitative approach is also used while taking a survey.
A survey can be qualitative, quantitative or mix methods. If your survey involves a questionnaire with scalable answers then it is a quantitative survey. If your survey has descriptive questions with in-depth answers then it is a qualitative survey. If your survey has both of them then it is a mixed-method survey.
Multiple-choice surveys are quantitative. They produce data that is easy to analyse and the answers lie on the scale of provided options only.
Qualitative questions are mostly based on the cause-effect scenario or a deep understanding of a topic. Whereas quantitative questions are generally accepted facts that are taken into research to prove that they are true.
Quantitative research is the best fit for a large survey audience. A large sample size provides a more accurate mean value and has a small margin of error.
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