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Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed-Methods Research: Home

Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed-Methods Research

Depending on the philosophy of the researcher, the nature of the data, and how it is collected, behavioral science can be classified into qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods research. Below are descriptions of each method. 

Quantitative Research


Collects numerical data, such as frequencies or scores to focus on cause-and-effect relationships among variables

Variables and research methodologies are defined in advance by theories and hypotheses derived from other theories. These remain unchanged throughout the research process. 

The researcher tries to achieve objectivity by distancing himself or herself from the research, not allowing himself or herself to be emotionally involved.

The researcher mostly studies research in artificial or less than its natural setting, and manipulates behavior as opposed to studying the behavior in its natural context.

The researcher tries to maintain internal validity and focuses on average behavior or thoughts of people in a population


Qualitative Research


Where researchers collect non-numerical information, such as descriptions of behavioral phenomena, how people experience or interpret events, and/or answers to participants' open-ended responses.

The researcher's variables andmethods used come from the researcher's experiences and can be modified as the research progresses.

The researcher is involved and his or her experiences are valuable as well as the participants' experiences. 

The researcher studies behavior as it naturally happens in the natural context.

The researcher tries to maximize ecological validity.

The researcher focuses on similarities and differences in experiences and how people interpret them. 

Mixed-Methods Research


Involves both quantitative and qualitative components. 

The researcher specifies in advance the types of information necessary to accomplish the study's goals.

The researcher needs to carefully consider the order in which the data types will be collected and the selection criteria for participants in the various parts of the study (e.g., which people will participate in the qualitative assessment if a sub-selection of participants will be involved). 

Involves development (where the researcher uses one method to inform data collection or analysis with another method) initiation (where unexpected results change protocol in the other method), corroboration (where consistency is evaluated and compared between methods), and elaboration (where one method is used to expand on the results of the other method).

Whitley, B. E. & Kite, M. E. (2013). Principles of research in behavioral science (3rd ed.). Routledge.