• The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

  • The online Community for people with spinal cord injury, their relatives and friends

Qualitative and quantitative research

Authors: Claudia Zanini and Julia Amann (Swiss Paraplegic Research)

Quantitative and qualitative research methods are two different traditions, whereby quantitative research is about measuring things and qualitative research is more explorative, aiming to understand the 'insider' perspective of a phenomenon.

Quantitative and qualitative research are two different traditions, linked to different disciplines: quantitative research is traditionally linked to hard sciences (e.g. biology) and qualitative research to social sciences (e.g. sociology). Simply put, quantitative research is about numbers and aims to count and measure things, whereas qualitative research is about words and aims to understand the “insider" perspective of a phenomenon. You find below a table with the major distinctive characteristics of qualitative and quantitative research:

  Quantitative research Qualitative research
Key characteristics
  • Seeks to test assumptions (hypotheses) about phenomena (e.g. spinal cord injury)
  • Highly structured research
  • Usually a large number of participants, who are representative of the population of interest (e.g. persons with spinal cord injury)
  • Seeks to explore phenomena; often used in areas of research where only little is known about the subject of study
  • Semi-structured research
  • Usually a small, non-representative sample of the population of interest
  • Identify and measure causal relationships among things (X causes Y)
  • Generalize results from a sample to a given population
  • Compare groups
  • Numerically describe characteristics of a population
  • Describe and gain understanding of individual experiences and group norms (e.g. underlying reasons and motivations)
  • Explore phenomena from the insider perspective
Example of a research question “What is the relationship between online information and self-management of spinal cord injury?" “How do persons with spinal cord injury use online information to improve their self-management skills?"
Methods used E.g. surveys, questionnaires
=> Closed-ended questions
(e.g. “Do you think that online information is useful yes or no?")
E.g. interviews, focus groups, observation
=> Open-ended questions
(e.g. “What do you think about online information?")
Analysis Analysis of numerical data by means of statistics Analysis of data such as words (audiotapes, transcripts), pictures, or videotapes by means of specific methods (e.g. content analysis and conversation analysis)
Advantages & disadvantages Advantages:
  • Can help to establish causal relationships
  • Enables comparisons
  • Quantifiable results

  • Difficulty in defining the “right" questions
  • Allows the participants to respond in their own words
  • Enables the researcher to ask follow-up questions to explore the “why" or “how"

  • Does not allow generalizability of results
  • Experimenter bias: the researcher is part of the interaction and could influence it by his presence or by the questions he raises

Comments (0)

There are no comments on this topic yet.
Be the first to comment!

Rate this post

Most Recent Answers
5287 odyssita
Explaining what life with a chronic disability is like
Hi cAro, all the best for your research! I am very curious to hear about the results once they are being published. Thank you for researching this...
6 odyssita 2018-05-02
5205 Wheelie
Good news for all who would like to try out the Scewo by themselves: according the Scewo constructors, the feedback on their invention was so...
5 Johannes 2018-03-12
Ask the Expert
Most Recent Answers
3 Dr._Hans_old 2015-07-20
3 Dr._Hans_old 2015-05-07

Most Recent Blog Posts
Wheelchair chefs: the success stories
Disabilities matter but ambition rules
lorenzo.deluigi 2020-07-22 In News
Make to Care, a competition promoting innovations
Which one of these four innovative projects convinces you the most?
kitwan 2020-07-02 In Society
Wheelchair users’ game of thorns
The fight for personal space, safety and independence
Most Read
Anatomy and physiology of respiration
Breathing is the most normal thing in the world for us. We hardly think about it, even though we breathe in and out about 20,000 times per day. We breathe more when we are active and exerting ourselves, and we breathe less when we are...
Social skills increase quality of life
Today strawberry yogurt is on Anna’s* grocery list. In front of the dairy section she notices that she cannot reach the yogurt sitting in a wheelchair. Many stressed people are rushing through the crowded store during rush hour and she does not...
Mobilisation / Transferring
What do I need to consider with regard to the shoulders? The shoulder is the most heavily-strained joint with regard to mobilisation – that applies to sitting up and transferring. It is therefore important to protect the shoulders whenever it is...

About the Community
Most Recent Topics
2020-08-04 In Latest
An unconventional book on ignoring disability
"A picture is worth a thousand words." How about blank pages? Recently, a blank book has been released to express the absurdity people with disabilities are experiencing every day, as there is...
2020-07-16 In Latest
Free masks for high-risk patients with SCI
People with high-level tetraplegia, paraplegics of higher age and those with pre-existing health conditions are more susceptible to a severe development of COVID-19. For this reason, the European...
2020-07-03 In Latest
A COVID inspiration porn?
Over three months since the COVID-19 declared pandemic, many countries are still debating whether to make wearing face masks compulsory to help prevent the spread of the disease. Noam Gershony, an...


Swiss Paraplegic Research
Guido A. Zäch Strasse 4
6207 Nottwil

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
T 0800 727 236 (from Switzerland, free of charge)
T +41 41 939 65 55 (from other countries, charges apply)

Be part of the Community – sign up now!