Discuss The Differences Between Quantitative And Qualitative Research Psychology Essay

This essay discusses two common research approaches, qualitative and quantitative, along with the various research designs commonly used when conducting research within the framework of each approach. As we can say that quantitative research is the process of collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and writing the results of a study, while qualitative research is the approach to data collection, analysis, and report writing differing from the traditional, quantitative approaches. Moreover, this essay provides a further distinction between quantitative and qualitative research methods. Additionally, this essay also presents a summary of the different research methods to conduct research in quantitative and qualitative. On the other hand, this essay explored the relationship between public confidence and criminal justice. It focused on the research methods where potential of information and public education to influence levels of public knowledge of, and public confidence in, the criminal justice system. The research employed research methods design drawing on quantitative as well as qualitative research methods.

Research is the systematic and exact process of enquiry, which aims to describe phenomena and to develop and test explanatory concepts and theories. Ultimately, it aims to contribute to a scientific body of knowledge. Research is the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data in order to understand a phenomenon. The research process is systematic in that defining the objective, managing the data, and communicating the findings occur within established frameworks and in accordance with existing guidelines. The frameworks and guidelines provide researchers with an indication of what to include in the research, how to perform the research, and what types of inferences are probable based on the data collected.

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Those interested in the study of criminology and criminal justice has at their disposal a wide range of research methods. Which of the particular research methods to use is entirely contingent upon the question being studied. Research questions typically fall into four categories of research:

1) Descriptive,

2) Exploratory,

3) Explanatory,

4) Evaluative

Descriptive research attempts to define and describe the phenomena under investigation. Exploratory research seeks to identify the underlying meaning behind actions and individual behavior. Explanatory research seeks to identify the causes and effects of phenomena. Evaluation research seeks to determine the effects of an intervention on individual behavior. These four areas of research are not mutually exclusive; rather, they are designed to be used interactively in order to gain a deeper understanding of the question under investigation.

With this background, the purpose of this entry will be to introduce the reader to the two major research paradigms and issues that organize the field of criminal justice: quantitative and qualitative research strategies. After describing the different research methodologies several issues related to internal and external validity are identified that are important to bear in mind when assessing the adequacies of distinct research methodologies. The entry closes by highlighting what appears to be the most promising research strategy for criminal justice

Public Confidence:

Phenomenon gives us an indication of the problems inherent in refusing to accept the importance of gaining the public’s confidence. Public confidence has a number of universal characteristics; primarily, public confidence cannot exist without transparency and openness, and citizens must trust that they have the facts they need to debate and decide upon major issues. Moreover, equally important is a regulator whose independence and ethics are credible. This is besides public participation, maintaining dialogue, and early and continuous consultation on regulatory matters is all hallmarks of a regulator who holds public confidence as a priority. Finally, accountability, competence and effectiveness are fundamental building blocks of public confidence in a regulator.

Researches Methods:

The two common approaches to conducting research are quantitative and qualitative. The researcher anticipates the type of data needed to respond to the research question. For instance, the numerical, textural, or both numerical and textural data are needed. Based on this assessment, the researcher selects one of the two aforementioned approaches to conduct research. Researchers typically select the quantitative approach to respond to research questions requiring numerical data, the qualitative approach for research questions requiring textural data, and the mixed methods approach for research questions requiring both numerical and textural data.

a) Quantitative Method:

Research methodology is defined as the general approach the researcher takes in carrying out the research project. Furthermore, quantitative research involves the collection of data so that information can be quantified and subjected to statistical treatment in order to support or refute, as alternate knowledge claims, whereas asserts that quantitative research originated in the public confidence in the criminal justice system. The researcher uses systematical models as the methodology of data analysis. Three historical trends pertaining to quantitative research include research design, test and measurement procedures, and statistical analysis. Quantitative research also involves data collection, which is typically systematic and the researcher tends to use such models as the methodology of data analysis. Additionally, the researcher uses the inquiry methods to ensure configuration with statistical data collection methodology. There are three broad classifications of quantitative research: descriptive experimental and causal comparative. The descriptive research approach is a basic research method that examines the situation, as it exists in its current state. Descriptive research involves identification of attributes of a particular phenomenon based on an observational basis, or the exploration of correlation between two or more phenomena.

Criminal Justice Research: Quantitative Research Methods

Quantitative research methods are typically concerned with measuring criminological or criminal justice reality. To understand this process several terms must first be identified. Concepts are abstract tags placed on reality that are assigned numerical values, thus making them variables. Variables are then studied to examine patterns of relation, co-variation, and cause and effect. At the most basic level, there exists at least one dependent variable and one independent variable. The dependent variable is commonly referred to as the outcome variable. This is what the researcher is attempting to predict. The independent variable is commonly referred to as the predictor variable, and it is the variable, which causes, determines, or precedes in time the dependent variable. Consider the following examples.

Criminological theorists may be interested in studying the relationship between impulsivity as an independent variable and criminal behavior as dependent variable. In studying such a relationship, scholars create a summated scale of items that is designed to indirectly measure the concept of impulsivity. Then, this impulsivity scale is used to predict involvement in criminal behavior. Criminal justice scholars may be interested in studying the effects of a mandatory arrest policy as independent variable on future patterns of domestic violence as dependent variable. In studying such a question, scholars typically evaluate the effect of an arrest, compared to some other sanction, on the future criminal behavior of the arrestee. Thus, quantitative research methods involve a pattern of studying the relationships between sets of variables to determine cause and effect.

Three criteria are needed to establish causality. The first is association. That is, the independent and dependent variables must be related to one another. The second is time order; the independent variable must precede the dependent variable in time. Finally, there is the issue of non-spuriousness. This occurs if the relationship between the independent and dependent variables is not due to variation in some unobserved third variable.

There are a number of different quantitative research methods available to researchers, most of which fall under the rubric of a research design, which loosely can be defined as the plan or blueprint for a study that includes the who, what, where, when, why and how of an investigation. These research methods include survey research, experimental and quasi-experimental research, cross-sectional research, longitudinal research, time series research, and meta-analysis.

Survey research: Serving as the most frequently used mode of observation within the social sciences, including criminology, survey research involves the collection of information from a sample of individuals through their responses to questions (Schutt). Survey research is generally carried out via mail, telephone, computer, or in person. Surveys offer a number of attractive features that make them a popular method of doing research. They are versatile, efficient, inexpensive, and generalizable. At the same time, survey methods may be limited due to problems in sampling, measurement, and overall survey design. When creating a survey, researchers should take care in making sure that the items in the survey are clear and to the point.

Experimental research: Some scholars believe that experimental research is the best type of research to assess cause and effect. True experiments must have at least three features:

1) Two comparison groups i.e., an experimental group and a control group;

2) Variation in the independent variable before assessment of change in the dependent variable;

3) Random assignment to the two or more comparison groups

Many experiments contain both a pre-test and a post-test. The former test measures the dependent variable prior to the experimental intervention while the latter test measures the outcome variable after the experimental group has received the treatment. Randomization is what makes the comparison group in a true experiment a powerful approach for identifying the effects of the treatment. Assigning groups randomly to the experimental and comparison groups ensures that systematic bias does not affect the assignment of subjects to groups. This is important if researchers wish to generalize their findings regarding cause and effect among key variables within and across groups.

The classic experimental design is one in which there is a pre-test for both groups, an intervention for one group, and then a post-test for both groups. Consider the following criminal justice example. Two police precincts alike in all possible respects are chosen to participate in a study that examines fear of crime in neighborhoods. Both precincts would be pre-tested to obtain information on crime rates and citizen perceptions of crime. The experimental precinct would receive a treatment, while the comparison precinct would not receive a treatment. Then, twelve months later, both precincts would be post-tested to determine changes in crime rates and citizen perceptions.

Cross-sectional research: Cross-sectional designs involve studies of one group at one point in time. Therefore, they offer a quick glimpse or snapshot of the phenomena being studied. Typically, they refer to a representative sample of the group and thus allow researchers to generalize their findings. Cross-sectional research designs permeate criminology and criminal justice research. Hirschi’s famous study of causes of delinquency utilized a cross-sectional design in which he asked male respondents a series of questions related to involvement in delinquent activities and emotional ties to social bonds.

Longitudinal research: There are two commonly used longitudinal research designs, panel and cohort studies. Both study the same group over a period and are generally concerned with assessing within- and between-group change. Panel studies follow the same group or sample over time, while cohort studies examine the more specific populations as they change over time.

Time-series designs: Time-series designs typically involve variations of multiple observations of the same group. over time or at successive points in time. Typically, they analyze a single variable such as the crime rate at successive times, and are especially useful for studies of the impact of new laws or social programs. Moreover, an interrupted time-series design analyzes a single variable at successive times with measures taken prior to some form of interruption and other observations taken after the intervention.

Although time-series designs are especially useful in studying trends over such period, and how such trends are influenced by some sort of intervention, researchers should be aware of one key feature of time-series designs; the inability to control for all potential spurious effects.

Meta-analysis: A recent advent in research methodology is the use of meta-analysis. This research approach is the quantitative analysis of findings from multiple studies. At its core, meta-analysis involves researchers pulling together the results of several studies and making summary, empirical statements about some cause and effect relationship.


The main advantage of this Quantitative Method, in comparison to that of qualitative methods is that you can have a specific aim and head towards it through a straight path. Unlike qualitative method, in quantitative method, the outcome of your research does not depend on the material you gather. On the other hand, it will focus on your aim instead of focusing on the subject or the opinions and views of the subjects. Moreover, we can include also another advantages of a quantitative method are easy collection and analysis of data; objective and can be measured for comparison; easy to replicate; and can be cheaper than qualitative research.


The disadvantages of the Quantitative Method are; findings can be biased by researchers’ perspectives; research often takes place in an unnatural setting; low validity; results may be statically significant but humanly insignificant; inflexible process.

Qualitative Method:

A qualitative research may be generally defined as a study, which is conducted in a natural setting where the researcher, an instrument of data collection, gathers words or pictures, analyzes them inductively, focuses on the meaning of participants, and describes a process that is both expressive and persuasive in language.

Qualitative research should not be viewed as an easy substitute for a “statistical” or quantitative study. It demands a commitment to an extensive time in the field, engagement in the complex, time-consuming process of data analysis, writing of long passages, and participation in a form of social and human science research that does not have firm guidelines or specific procedures and is evolving and changing constantly.

The term ‘qualitative research’ is used as an overarching category covering a wide range of approaches and methods. Although there is still some debate, the general consensus is that qualitative research is a naturalistic, interpretative approach concerned with understanding the meanings which people attach to actions, decisions, beliefs, values etc. within their social world. An understanding of the mental mapping process that respondents use to make sense of, and interpret the world around them.

Qualitative research can stand alone or alongside quantitative survey inquiry to provide depth and richness to an investigation. It describes the contextual setting of what exists an explanation of the reasons for or the associations between what exists, an evaluation of the effectiveness of what exists and an aid to the development of theories or strategies.

There are several different methods for conducting a qualitative research; however, it was recommended the following five: Case studies, grounded theory, ethnography, content analysis, and phenomenological. Furthermore, these methods meet different needs. For instance, case studies and the grounded theory research explore processes, activities, and events while ethnographic research analyses broad cultural-sharing behaviors of individuals or groups. Case studies as well as phenomenology can be used to study individuals.

On the other hand, there are a number of qualitative research techniques that can be used to support investigation and inquiry, including one-to-one in-depth interview and group discussion. Qualitative methods may be semi-structured or free flowing depending on the research questions and objectives.

In fact that qualitative methods are resource intensive from the point of view of the research time required, in relation to not only data collection but also the way in which qualitative data are analyzed and reported on.

Additionally, the purpose of qualitative research is to gather non-numerical data to help explain or develop a theory about a relationship. Methods used to gain qualitative information include surveys, observation, case studies, and interviews and the information derived from these means can be combined into a story like description of what is happening or what has happened in the past. For example, to better understand variables that are difficult to quantify, such as attitudes, religious beliefs, or political opinions, qualitative research could be used to draw a picture about a specific population or group of people. Qualitative research is often also used as a pilot study in order to gather information that may later lead to a quantitative study.

On the other hand, qualitative studies are tools used in understanding and describing the world of human experience. Since we maintain our humanity throughout the research process, it is largely impossible to escape the subjective experience, even for the most seasoned of researchers. As we proceed through the research process, our humanness informs us and often directs us through such subtleties as intuition or ‘aha’ moments. Speaking about the world of human experience requires an extensive commitment in terms of time and dedication to process; however, this world is often dismissed as ‘subjective’ and regarded with suspicion.

A major strength of the qualitative approach is the depth to which explorations are conducted and descriptions are written, usually resulting in sufficient details for the reader to grasp the idiosyncrasies of the situation.

The ultimate aim of qualitative research is to offer a perspective of a situation and provide well-written research reports that reflect the researcher’s ability to illustrate or describe the corresponding phenomenon. One of the greatest strengths of the qualitative approach is the richness and depth of explorations and descriptions.

To engage in qualitative enquiry, there is a need to first determine whether a strong rationale exists for choosing a qualitative approach. The following reasons could call for a qualitative inquiry:

Topics that need to be explored: This is a situation where variables cannot be easily identified, theories are not available to explain behavior of participants or their population of study;

Need to present a detailed view of the topic: This is the case where the distant panoramic view is not enough to present answers to the problem;

Need to study individuals in their natural setting: This is the case where, if participants are removed from their natural setting, it leads to contrived findings that are out of context;

Where there is sufficient time and resources to spend on extensive data collection in the field and detailed data analysis of “text” information;

The nature of research question: In a qualitative study, the research questions often starts with a how or a what; and

Audiences are receptive to qualitative research.

Criminal Justice Research: Qualitative Research Methods

Unlike quantitative research methods, qualitative approaches are designed to capture life as participants experience it, rather than in categories predetermined by the researcher. These methods typically involve exploratory research questions, inductive reasoning, an orientation to social context and human subjectivity, and the meanings attached by participants to events and to their lives. There are a number of distinctive research designs under this paradigm:

1) participant observation,

2) intensive interviewing,

3) focus groups,

4) case studies and life histories.

Participant observation: At its most basic level, participant observation involves a variety of strategies in data gathering in which the researcher observes a group by participating, to varying degrees, in the activities of the group. Since these four different positions on a continuum of roles that field, researchers may play in this regard:

1) Complete participant,

2) participant-as-observer,

3) observer-as-participant,

4) Complete observer.

Complete participation takes place when the researcher joins in and actually begins to manipulate the direction of group activity. In the participant-as-observer strategy, the researcher usually makes him known and tries to objectively observe the activities of the group. The observer-as-participant strategy is very much like a one-visit interview, where the interviewees are also short-term participant observers. Typically, these interviews are conducted with individuals who are known to participate in a designated activity. Finally, the complete observer strategy relies on sole observation absent participation from the researcher.

Although several issues must be confronted when engaging in this sort of research, two are of vital importance:

1) Objectivity,

2) Going native

The former deals with the researcher’s ability to avoid not only over identification with the study group, but also aversion to it. The latter deal with a situation in which the researcher identifies with and becomes a member of the study group, and in the process abandons his or her role as an objective researcher.

Intensive interviewing: Intensive interviewing consists of open-ended, relatively unstructured questioning in which the interviewer seeks in-depth information on the interviewee’s feelings, experiences, or perceptions. Unlike the participant observation strategy, intensive interviewing does not require systematic observation of respondents in their natural setting. Typically, interviewing sample members, and identification and interviewing of more sample members, continues until the saturation point is reached, the point when new interviews seems to yield little additional information.

Focus groups: Focus groups are groups of unrelated individuals, which are formed by a researcher and then led in-group discussions of a topic. Typically, the researcher asks specific questions and guides the discussion to ensure that group members address these questions, but the resulting information is qualitative and relatively unstructured.

Although generalizations from focus groups to target populations cannot be precise, research suggests that focus group information, combined with survey information, can be quite consistent under certain conditions..


Qualitative research is generally rich in information. That is, Qualitative data consists of detailed descriptions; in depth inquiry and direct quotations capturing people’s personal perspectives and experiences. Examples of qualitative data include interview transcripts, field notes, photographs, audio recordings, videotapes, diaries, personal comments, memos, official records, and textbook passages etc.

This type of research also tends to be undertaken in a naturalistic setting. That is, the researchers spend a great deal of time, for example in a school study, actually sitting in on faculty meetings, observing teachers in their classrooms, attending PTA meetings and generally observing people as they go about their daily routine. Qualitative researchers are concerned with ‘context’. They believe that human behavior is greatly influenced by its environment and therefore can be best understood when observed in a natural setting.

The fact that the design of qualitative research is unstructured has the advantage of great flexibility, being able to adapt the inquiry as understanding deepens or situations change and allowing the researcher to pursue new paths of discovery as they emerge.

Qualitative research has a high validity. Validity refers to the appropriateness, meaningfulness and usefulness of inferences made by the researcher based upon the data, which they collect. In other words, qualitative research always tends to measure what the researcher claims it to.


Qualitative research also has its disadvantages in that it is often very subjective as the researcher often includes personal experience and insight as part of the relevant data thus making complete objectivity impossibility. In addition, it has a very low reliability in that it is extremely difficult to replicate a piece of qualitative research because it does not have a structured design or a standardized procedure. Moreover, its major disadvantage is that small group of interviewed individuals cannot be taken as representative.


Finally, research methods should not be seen in isolation from each other. A triangulated or combined methodological approach to addressing different facets of a research issue, using different methods, which complement each other, is increasingly recommended as a means of establishing the external validity of the research. In the same way in which prospective, longitudinal surveys can inform the results from randomized controlled trials, so qualitative research findings can enhance quantitative survey data by placing the latter into real social contexts and enhancing understanding of relevant social processes.

Quantitative and qualitative research methods investigate and explore the different claims to knowledge and both methods are designed to address a specific type of research question. While the quantitative method provides an objective measure of reality, the qualitative method allows the researcher to explore and better understand the complexity of a phenomenon. Therefore, this essay presented a clear statement of what constitutes quantitative and qualitative research designs and summarized techniques used to conduct studies for both research approaches. Moreover, this essay also presented statements of what constitutes the mixed methods approach when conducting research. Although each approach seeks to validate sensory knowledge as truth, neither is absolute in its form.

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