The difference between quantitative and qualitative research

You may not know the difference between qualitative and quantitative questions, where or how to use them, or even why you would choose one in a situation over the other. Many people don’t!

That’s why we’re here to explain to you the differences, pros, and cons of quantitative and qualitative research to help you decide what’s right for you.

Qualitative questions

Qualitative questions are designed to uncover insights about people’s thoughts and opinions. Qualitative research is non-statistical in nature, and produces findings that were not determined in advance. These are open-ended, and allow the respondent to provide textual descriptions of their responses to a given question.

Qualitative research often takes on the format of focus groups or interviews, although has some cons when it comes to using it in a questionnaire setting. Things you should know about qualitative research are as follows:

    • Effective at capturing unknown issues, assessing feelings, and uncovering attitudes
    • Can be difficult to quantify or analyze
    • Users can provide any response they choose

Qualitative questions have other considerations; remember that mobile users prefer to tap or scroll, versus typing or pinching and zooming. Therefore, uploading a clear image is critical to asking for a free-form response to understand their opinion.

Also note that when asking for a participant’s opinion, you may not get a long answer, as open-ended questions give the user the ability to respond with answers that are unrelated, too short, or don’t provide adequate information to draw a conclusion—such as the answer “N/A”.

Qualitative survey question examples

How was your stay at our hotel?

Can you describe the flavor of our new soda, in your own words?

What are the most important traits of soups you enjoy?

Quantitative questions

Quantitative research measures the number of times that an audience responds to a question, given pre-determined multiple answer choices, or rating scales. Quantitative questions provide quantifiable data from a sample population, allowing for statistical analysis that can result in general conclusions—the greatest and least number of responses, the average, etc.

Quantitative questions, in which the participant selects from a given pool of answers, is often the “first step” in research and can be followed up by qualitative research to understand why the respondent chose a specific answer.

Quantitative data is specific in nature. You can ask, for example, a single-selection multiple choice question. The choices, in this case, could be non-specific and based on opinion, similar to Qualitative research. The difference is that by limiting the choices and asking survey respondents to choose the answer that fits them best, you are quantifying the results, instead of allowing for a broader base of possible outcomes.

Quantitative survey question examples

How many times did you use our hotel pool?

How many times per week do you drink soda?

How many times have you tried our soup?

 Which of these work best in a mobile survey?

If you are conducting a mobile survey, there are advantages such as the size of audience that can be reached, cost-effectiveness, and response rates (since most people carry their mobile phones on them).

When considering quantitative vs qualitative research in your mobile survey design, remember that quantitative questions are easier to respond to, answers are more easily analyzed, and the number of qualitative questions must be limited to keep users honest and engaged.

Think about your audience and the mobile survey they will be taking—anything you can do to make it easier for the user to respond to your survey in a manner that doesn’t interrupt their flow, or ability to respond in a timely manner that solicits genuine responses.

For example, remember that the respondents have limited screen space before they have to scroll, so it’s best not to overload the participant with too many answer choices in a quantitative question.

You also want to limit the number of questions you ask the participant. Beyond about 15 questions, users tend to lose interest, “speed through” the survey or drop off completely.