Qualitative Research Versus Quantitative Research Methods Psychology Essay


According to Sekaran, (2003), Research is defined “as an organised, systematic, data-based, critical, objective, scientific inquiry or investigation into a specific question, undertaken with the purpose of finding answers or solutions to it”. It guides (marketing) managers in making informed decisions with the information, it provides. Research is referred to as a systematic, careful inquiry or an examination to discover new information or relationships and to expand/verify existing knowledge for some specified purpose. Smith and Dainty, (1991) It “encompasses the processes of inquiry, investigation, examination and experimentation” Sekaran, (2003). Pervez and Kjell (2002) defines research as a systematic process of planning, executing and investigating in order to find answers to specific questions. However, Uma (2003) defines research as an organized, systematic, critical, objective and scientific inquiry or investigation into a specific problem, undertaken with the purpose of finding answers or solutions to it. Saunders et al (2003) share similar view with Uma (2003) and by defining research as” something that people undertake in order to find out things in a systematic way”.

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Jankowicz (2005) defined research method as a systematic and orderly approach taken towards the collection and analysis of data so that information can be obtained from those data. According to Remenyi et al. (1998) Research methodology refers to the procedural framework within which the research is conducted. This may include describing, explaining, understanding, critising and analyzing data to arrive at meaningful information which answers specific questions (Saunders et al., 2003). However, Pervez and Kjell (2002) describes research methods as rules and procedure, ways of proceeding to solve problems; research methods serve as: ways of reasoning to arrive at solutions, explaination to how the research findings have been achieved and rules for intersubjectivity. Creswell (2009) stated that in carrying out a research, the researcher should have a research design which involves the plans and procedures of inquiry (strategies) and specific methods of data collection, data analysis and interpretation. However, the selection of a suitable research design should be based on criteria such as the nature of the research problem, the audience for the study and the researchers personal life experiences (Creswell, 2009).

According to Gilbert (2008) the research design should involve the entire research process been considered and planned, including the background to the problem and the review of previous research, through to the research approach and the methods of data collection and analysis. It is important that strategies adopted at each stage of the research design should reflect on the research question and involve the use of the research design and question to interrogate each other. The researcher strongly agrees with Uma, (2003); Saunders et al., (2003); and Pervez and Kjell, (2002) as the researcher intends to find answers to specific problems systematically through critical and scientific enquires making use of both primary and secondary data sources on the promotional tools used by SMEs in Nigeria. This will involve an explanation of the methods used to collect and analyze the required data from interviewed respondents , with the aim of finding out answers to specific questions about the promotional tools used by SMEs in Nigeria (PortHarcout). However, the researcher’s choice of method will depend upon the research problem, the research design and the purpose for the research (Pervez and Kjell, 2002). Qualitative and quantitative methods are two major approaches for conducting research. There are many factors to be considered when choosing an appropriate research methodology, with the topic to be researched and specific research question being primary drivers. Remenyi et al., (1998)


Creswell (2009) summarized that there are three types of research methods: qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. The qualitative research method is framed in terms of using words while the quantitative research method is framed using numbers. Hence, the mixed research method incorporates elements of both the qualitative method and the quantitative method. However, Bryman(2005) share similar view with Creswell (2009) by positing that research is of three types: quantitative research which entails the collection of numerical data; qualitative research which is concerned with words, and mixed methods research which is a combinative feature of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Thus, quantitative and qualitative research represent different strategies which are strikingly distinct in terms of the role of theory, epistemological issues and ontological concerns. Bryman, (2004).

Qualitative research is subjective in its approach of examining and reflecting on perceptions of understanding social and human activities. (Hussey and Hussey, 1997). Qualitative research is inductive and researchers rarely know the specifics of data analysis when they begin a project (Neuman, 2006). Qualitative research is defined by Creswell, (2009) as ”a means for exploring and understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to a social or human problem; this process involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant’s setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general themes, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data”. Hence, Gilbert (2008) noted that qualitative research is a research that aims to investigate and analyze specific problems by describing scenes, gathering data through interviews, or analyzing the meaning of documents. However, Bryman, (2004) concluded that ”qualitative research can be construed as a research strategy that usually emphasizes words rather than quantification in the collection and analysis of data that predominantly emphasizes an inductive approach to the relationship between theory and research, in which the emphasis is placed on the generation of theories”. Moreover, the qualitative research approach also embodies a view of social reality as a constantly shifting emergent property of individuals’ creation (Bryman, 2004). The researcher shares similar views with the three authors, as he intends to critically investigate and analyze specific research questions through the use of a qualitative approach (Saunders et al, 2004). This will be done to gain an understanding of the meaning or interpretation of the selected respondents on the promotional tools being used in the SMEs in Nigeria, and the impact of advertising in the Nigeria SMEs.

Quantitative research on the other hand, is a means for testing objective theories by examining the relationship among variables which can be measured, typically on instruments, so that number data can be analyzed using statistical procedures (Creswell, 2009). Gilbert, (2008) share similar view by identifying quantitative research as a research method that aims to measure using numbers to create numerical description with relative precision and lack of ambiguity. Bryman, (2004) concludes that quantitative research can be construed as a research strategy that emphasizes quantification in the collection and analysis of data; it entails exhibiting a view of the relationship between theory and research as deductive and as having an objectivist conception of social reality. However, Saunders et al., (2004), concludes that quantitative research involves deductive emphasis which includes a highly structured approach of moving from theory to data, and the application of controls to ensure the validity of such data. Other features of quantitative research includes the operationalisation of concepts to ensure clarity of definition, the researchers independence of what is been researched and the necessity to select samples of sufficient size in order to generalise conclusions. Saunders et al., (2004).

Creswell (2009) summarized that the third research method, the mixed methods research is an approach to inquiry that combines or associates both qualitative and quantitative forms; and the mixing of both approaches in a study.

Mixed Method / Triangulation Research Method

This method involves the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. Fielding and Schreier (2001) whilst citing Denzin (1970) report that this method has three distinguishing models or meanings namely:

The Validity Model which is a joint validation of results collected on the basis of different methods;

The Complementarity Model which is a means that is aimed at obtaining a wider and more comprehensive representation of the event being studied; and

The Trigonometry Model as the original idea which indicates that a mixture of methods is essential in order to, at least, achieve any picture of the relevant event.

This approach to research is known as the mixed method approach. Creswell (2003 p.20) describes this approach as one which “the data collection involves gathering both numeric and text information so that the final database represents both quantitative and qualitative information”.

Speziale and Carpenter (2007 p.389) states that this approach “contributes to the completeness and confirmation of findings” necessary in the research process. It is particularly useful in providing detailed descriptions of phenomena and filling in the gaps left by the use of one research method.

The subsections below, outlines the quantitative and qualitative research methods futher.

Quanlitative Research

Qualitative research methods have been linked with positivism. This is because they replicate methods from the natural sciences, observe human behavior and usually focus on individual units of a system (Yates 2004). Yates however cautions that the seeming influences do not translate to practice and broad generalizations cannot be made.

The two main types of quantitative inquiry are experiments and surveys.

Creswell (2003 p.154) defines survey design as one which “provides a quantitative or numeric description of trends, attitudes, or options of a population by studying a sample of that population”. Survey design is used to make inferences about certain characteristics, and to make claims about the study population.

Surveys are commonly used in research because of the ease of use, structured format, easily coded and quantifiable data and the ability to statistically compare cases. However, disadvantages of the method include its assumptions that all respondents understand the question in the same way and that they all define terms similarly. It also “imposes a set of ideas or way of thinking about the issue on the respondents” (Yates 2004 p.182).

Van Maanen (1983), defines qualitative methods as an array of interpretive techniques which seek to describe, decode, translate and otherwise come to terms with the meaning, not the frequency of certain more or less naturally occurring phenomena in the social world. Qualitative research is conducted through an intense and, or prolonged contact with a ‘field or life situation’ (Groat and Wang 2002; Amarantunga et al, 2002). Fielding and Schreier (2001) cited Shank’s assertion that “qualitative research is the systematic empirical inquiry into meaning” (Fielding and Schreirer, 2001). Consequently, qualitative research method is an attempt that seeks for an understanding of human behavior in a social setting. That is, it tries to gather knowledge about human through their interactions, behavior, experiences, attitudes and perceptions of social events. In doing this, it adopts either one or a combination of these methods shown in Table 1.1 as given by Silverman (2006 p. 19).

Table 1.1: Different Uses of Four Methods

Quantitative Research

Qualitative Research


Preliminary work, e.g. prior to framing questionnaire

Fundamental to understanding another culture

Textual analysis

Content analysis, i.e. counting in terms of researchers’ categories

Understanding participants’ categories


Survey research: mainly fixed-choice questions to random samples

‘Open-ended’ questions to small samples

Audio and video recording

Used infrequently to check the accuracy of interview records

Understanding the organisation of talk, gaze and body movements

Source: Adapted from Silverman 2006.

The quantitative research on the other hand is an objective, result orientated, and logical and critical approach with emphasis on testing and verification of data. Ghauri (2002). Quantitative research designs are characterised by the assumption that human behaviour can be explained by what may be termed ‘social facts’ which can be investigated by methodologies that utilise the deductive logic of the natural sciences. (Jones, 1997; Horna, 1994)

Bryman and Bell (2003) identified quantitative and qualitative methods as two distinct clusters of research strategy, which give a general orientation to the conduct of business research. Quantitative method focuses on the quantification in collection and analysis of data, while qualitative method emphasizes on words rather than quantification in collection and analysis of data.

Quantitative and qualitative methodologies are generally associated respectively with the two principal research paradigms, which are generally labelled positivism and phenomenology. (Mangan et al, 2004)

The quantitative research method often involves the gathering and use of statistical data in approaching or attempting to solve research problems (Silverman, 2006). Citing Bryman (1988), Silverman (2006) opines that the quantitative social science research may be carried out through any one or a combination of the following five methods illustrated in Table 2.1.

Table 2.1: Methods of Quantitative Research

Social Survey

Random samples

Measured variables


Tests hypotheses


Experimental stimulus and control group not exposed to stimulus

Precise measurement

Official statistics

Analysis of previously collected data

Large datasets

‘Structured’ observation

Observations recorded on predetermined ‘schedule’

Reliability of observations

Content analysis

Predetermined categories used to count content of mass media products

Reliability of measures

Source: Adapted from Silverman 2006 and Bryman 1988

Two core areas of importance exist in research, the research philosophy and research approach (Saunders et al, 2007) these form the basis and are at the centre of every research, for any piece of research to have direction these core areas should be understood. Research philosophy refers to the development and nature of knowledge; research entails developing knowledge in a particular field (Saunders et al, 2007), which is translated into answering a research problem or specific problem within an organisation and subsequently developing new knowledge.

Smith and Dainty (1991), futher states that there are a number of different approaches to research but there is a sharp contrast between those approaches aimed at purely academic or theoretical problems and, those concerned more with the day-to-day difficulties of (marketing) management in practice.


The research philosophy adopted is surrounded with assumptions on which the research methods and strategy would be based.

Approaches to be considered in research include,

Pure basic research- This form of research arises from the perceived needs for developing a basic discipline and it is concerned with resolving, illuminating, or exemplifying a theoretical issue. Smith and Dainty, (1991)

Basic objective research- This research is involved with tackling a general problem of the application of knowledge which can arise in many contexts but does not aim to solve a particular practical problem. Smith and Dainty, (1991)

Evaluation research- Here, the research seeks to provide an assessment of some aspect of the performance of an enterprise. This form of research is normally often sought by enterprises looking for a sophisticated method of collecting information with the appearance of ‘scientific neutrality or impartiality’. Smith and Dainty, (1991)

Applied research- This involves solving a specific practical problem within an enterprise or sponsoring organisation through the application of appropriate knowledge. Smith and Dainty, (1991)

Action research- This refers to a form of research where, action is both an outcome of the research and a part of the research process. This aims to tackle potential problems which have relevance to theory and reporting the findings to sponsoring bodies. Smith and Dainty, (1991)

Approaches to research also suggested by (Saunders et al, 2007) include,

Inductive Approach- “This involves the development of a theory as a result of the observation of empirical data”. This tends to hold more on interpretivism. (Saunders et al, 2007 p.596) This would encompass the collection of mainly qualitative data which can then be analysed in order to develop and construct a suitable theory that is formulated from the information gathered. (Saunders et al, 2003, p.85 & 89)

Deductive Approach- “This involves the testing of theoretical proposition by the employment of a research strategy specifically designed for the purpose of its testing”. (Saunders et al, 2007.p.596) This revolves around the development of a hypothesis, which is created from a review of existing theoretical frameworks. This hypothesis can then be tested in the course of the design of an appropriate research strategy including suitable methods of data collection in order to assess the validity of the hypothesis. Thietart et al, (2001). In contrast to the inductive approach, the deductive approach is explanatory in nature and is more concerned with the collection and analysis of quantitative data.


Turning back to research strategy / design, it involves the techniques used in gathering valid and reliable data for investigation in order to make useful analysis and evaluation of the research questions or hypotheses (Asika 2002). It can also be a broad plan through which answers to the research questions are sort and also a road-map to examining the aim and objectives of the study by drawing up detailed pattern of sourcing data as well as constraints that may be encountered in data collection process (Saunders et al. 2003). Here, the use of a combination of research strategies may be utilised depending on the nature of the research study being undertaken as this would help the researcher make valid findings and conclusion and thereafter make applicable recommendations for the proposed research study.


The data needed for the research can be collected from primary data sources and secondary data sources.

Primary data are information obtained directly by the researcher on the variables of interest for the specific purpose of the research study, while secondary data on the other hand, are information gathered by someone other than the researcher conducting the current study; it has the merits of savings in time and cost of acquiring information though it may not meet the specific need of a particular setting (Bryman, 2008). Pervez and Kjell, (2002) conclude that the main disadvantage of primary data is that it can be time consuming and can be expensive to collect.

In order to have a comprehensive source of data, both primary sources of data such as individuals, focus groups, panel of respondents, and secondary sources of data such as company records, government publications, industry analyses offered by the media, web sites, and internet, may be sought on specific issues from time to time as the research progresses (Uma, 2003). With the use of the data sources outlined above, the researcher intends to develop a better understanding and analysis of the study area in order to meet the set aim and objectives of the research.


The data needed for the research can be collected in several ways, in different settings and from different sources such as through interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, observation and other motivational techniques such as projective test Uma, (2003).


Asika (2002) opines that a questionnaire consists of a set of questions designed to gather information / data for analysis and the results of this is then used to answer the research questions or to test the relevant hypothesis. According to (Hussey and Hussey 1997, p, 161; Dana, 2006, p,788). “a questionnaire is a list of carefully structured questions, chosen after considerable testing, with a view to eliciting reliable responses from a chosen sample; its aim is to find out what a selected group of participants do, think or feel and is associated with both positivistic and phenomenological methodologies” . This remains the most popular form of data collection as it is cheap, and less time consuming, the questions can also be either close ended or open ended (Hussey, 1997; Yates, 2004). The questionnaire is a preformulated written set of questions to which respondents record their answers to the researchers’ questions, usually within rather closely defined alternatives (Uma, 2003). Questionnaires used by the researcher can be administered personally, electronically or mailed to respondents depending on their respective locations (Pervez and Kjell, 2003).

Personally administered questionnaire is often a good way to collect data when the research survey is confined to a local area and the organization is willing and able to assemble groups of employees to respond to the questions at their place of work (Uma, 2003). Questionnaires can also be distributed by the researcher to respondents electronically through the use of computers or mailed directly to respondents (Uma, 2003). Though the questions may be closed ended or open ended which are relatively cheap in administering, and are less time consuming, the choice of using questionnaire may be restricted if the respondents are with very little level of education (Gilbert, 2008). However in designing the questionnaire, it is important for the researcher to be mindful of the appropriateness of the content of the questions, the appearance of the questionnaire, the length of the questionnaire and the instruction for completion in order to minimize biases in research (Uma, 2003). However, a data collection approach using questionnaires has the merits of anonymity, wide geographical coverage, and multiple channel of administering (personally, by mail or electronically) with the ability to clarify doubts, though respondents may not be willing to complete the survey; organizations may be reluctant to give up company time for the survey with groups of employees assembled for the purpose (Uma, 2003). Another demerit of questionnaires as an approach to data collection is the high rate of non-response (Pervez and Kjell, 2002).


Interviews are useful research techniques used to gather data for a research study that encounters difficulty gathering data through direct observation and / or recorded historical information (Seale, 1999) and is therefore used in social science research to gather valid and reliable data that addresses the research questions as well as the objectives of the research study (Saunders, 2007). It is a purposeful discussion between two or more people (Hussey, 1997). It becomes quite useful when informants cannot be directly observed, identified informants can provide historical information, and it also allows the researcher to have an upper hand in the line of questioning. There are several types of interviews; in-depth, semi-structured, group interviews, and structured interviews and these can be administered either face to face or by telephone. Saunders (2007) further suggested, that interviews may be highly formalised and structured using standardised questions for each respondent or they may be informal or unstructured in nature like regular day to day conversations. Interviewing is a method of collecting data from respondents which demands real interaction between the researcher and the respondents (Pervez and Kjell, 2002). Though interviews are often considered the best data collection methods, its complexities are often underestimated (Pervez and Kjell, 2002). Interviews can be structured, semi-structured or unstructured in approach. The structured interview are those conducted when the information needed is known from the outset; emphasis is placed on response categories and systematic sampling and loading procedures combined with quantitative measures and statistical methods (Pervez and Kjell, 2002). A major advantage of the structured interview is that there is uniformity in the behavior of interviewers though the quality of data may depend on the attitude of the interviewer. Gilbert, (2008).

The unstructured interview takes the form of respondents having the full liberty to discuss reactions, opinions and behavior on a particular issue with the aim of exploring and probing into the several factors in the situation that might be central to the broad problem area (Uma, 2003). Here, the interviewer gives lead questions and responses are recorded; the interviewer is well acquainted with the research questions and can ask subsequent questions with the advantage of discovery more information and enriching the data so collected. Pervez and Kjell, (2002).

According to Gilbert (2008), a third type of interview is the semi-structured interview which involves the interviewer asking major questions the same way each time, but free to alter their sequence and probe for the information. The interviews could be done face-to-face, on the phone or computer or through the electronic media; the questionnaire could be administered personally or through electronic medium. (Pervez and Kjell, 2002). The observation of individuals or events can be done with or without the aid of video taping or audio recording. Pervez and Kjell, (2002)

Interviewing as a data collection method has the advantage of flexibility in terms of adapting, adopting, and changing the questions as the researcher proceeds with the interviews (Uma, 2003); this advantages inherent informs the researcher’s intent to use interviews in collecting data needed for the research. The interview approach (telephone and face-to-face) has the merit of been capable of establishing rapport and motivating respondents with greater anonymity, though respondents may be concerned about confidentiality of information given (Bryman,2004). Interviews could also be time consuming and costly especially when a wide geographic region is covered; it is however, a very good approach to clarifying the questions and clearing doubts both to the interviewer and the respondents and can be conducted with the aid of video tapes, recorders and films. Uma, (2003).


Focus group is a method of interviewing that involves more than one, usually at least four interviewees (Bryman, 2005). This method of data collection is essentially a group interview with a moderator leading the discussions for about two hours on a particular topic, concept or product, with members chosen on the bases of their expertise in the topic on which information is sought (Uma, 2003). In a focus session, the unstructured and spontaneous responses are expected to reflect the genuine opinions, ideas, and feelings of the respondents about the topic under discussion (Uma, 2003). During the discussion sessions, the moderator records responses by taking notes or using the tape recorder, for subsequent transcription.

An advantage of the focus group method of data collection is that the researcher has the opportunity to study ways in which individuals collectively make sense of a phenomenon and construct meanings around it (Bryman, 2005). Focus groups are also relatively cheap to conduct and can provide the researcher with fairly dependable data within a short time frame for analysis (Uma, 2003). However, a major short coming of the focus group is that it only provides the researcher with only qualitative information and not a combination of both qualitative and quantitative information.


Observation involves the systematic observation, recording, description, analysis and interpretation of people’s behavior (Saunders et al, 2004). According to Uma (2003), people can be observed in their natural work environment or in the lab setting, and their activities and behaviors or other items of interest can be noted and recorded. Observation also includes taking note of people’s facial expressions of joy, anger, body languages and other emotions. Saunders et al (2004) defines participant observation as the process of data collection whereby the researcher attempts to participate fully in the lives and activities of subjects and thus becomes a member of their group, organization of community. Here, the researcher enters the organization or the research setting, and becomes a part of the work team. However, there are four roles the participant observer can adopt in gathering field observational data (Saunders, 2004). These roles are:

Complete participant: Here the researcher is seen attempting to become a member of the group in which he or she is performing research. The researcher’s true identity is not known to the group.

Complete Observer: Here, the researcher does not take part in the activities of the group and does not review the purpose of his or her activity to those been observed.

Observer as Participant: in this role, the observer is mainly an interviewer. There is some observation but with very little participation.

Participant as Observant: Here, the researcher’s role is revealed; both the researcher and those been observed are aware of the fact that it is a fieldwork relationship.

However, the participant observation method of collecting qualitative data has the merit of obtaining generally more reliable data free from respondent’s bias, though a major demerit of this method is that it is a slow method that is tedious and expensive to conduct. Uma, (2003).


The use of documents as a data collection approach has options such as public documents (newspapers) and private documents such as journals, diaries or letters (Creswell,2009). Documents have the advantage of enabling the researcher to obtain data in the language and words of participants and saves the researcher time and cost of transcribing, though the materials may be incomplete, not authentic or accurate (Creswell, 2009). Moreso, Audio-Visual Materials has options such as videotapes, photographs, Art objects, computer software and film which have the advantage of capturing attention visually and providing an opportunity for participants to directly share their reality, though it may be difficult to interpret responses. Creswell, (2009)


The aim of this research is to investigate the effectiveness of advertising marketing strategies available to small businesses in Nigeria, and a critical analysis of the advertising strategies use

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