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Research Methods

Definitions and overview

"Quantitative research," also called "empirical research," refers to any research based on something that can be accurately and precisely measured.  For example, it is possible to discover exactly how many times per second a hummingbird's wings beat and measure the corresponding effects on its physiology (heart rate, temperature, etc.).

"Qualitative research" refers to any research based on something that is impossible to accurately and precisely measure.  For example, although you certainly can conduct a survey on job satisfaction and afterwards say that such-and-such percent of your respondents were very satisfied with their jobs, it is not possible to come up with an accurate, standard numerical scale to measure the level of job satisfaction precisely.

It is so easy to confuse the words "quantitative" and "qualitative," it's best to use "empirical" and "qualitative" instead.

Hint: An excellent clue that a scholarly journal article contains empirical research is the presence of some sort of statistical analysis

SAGE publications, a leading publisher of scholarly resources in the Social Sciences has its own youtube channel.  In this video clip, SAGE interviews David Morgan, a Professor at Portland State University.  Prof. Morgan is a leading scholar in focus group and interview research and has published numerous books with SAGE.   

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