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How Productive Is This Distinction In The Social Sciences?


Qualitative and quantitative approaches are generally used for gathering, analysing and obtaining the effective outcomes in a research. Both approaches are taken as tool to develop hypothesis to uncover trends and carry a in-depth analysis. But within social science, there is a widespread debate about difference of both terminologies (Kuehn and Rohlfing, 2016). Present essay is going to make a discussion on division of qualitative and quantitative approaches. It also highlights the way how such distinctions is productive under social science.

Main body

Due to continuous rise in statistical methodologies, it has become necessary for researchers to distinguish the concept of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Here, qualitative research can be defined as systematically examine social phenomena by using mathematical and statistical methods. While quantitative research can be characterised in terms if hypothesis where large samples, deductive approaches and standardised measures are used. According to the article given by Vincent Traag and Thomas Franseen, it has analysed that the option to adopt either qualitative or quantitative approach refers to a widespread debate under sociology. In order to study this divide and production this distinction, both researchers have adopted the concept of scientometric analysis (Fraser, Tseng and Deng, 2018).

Under social studies, quantitative approach allows people to discover different patterns, correlations, associations and other features of populations. Rather than this, under qualitative research, researchers can gather information through personal investigation via interviews and observations. This would help in identifying internal psychological as well as behavioural characteristics.

Under scientometrics, the division between both quantitative and qualitative approaches is taken as equal apparent. Here, quantitative part is generally well-established that consists some sociology terms such as 'data', 'socio-economic status', 'survey' and more. While qualitative one is apparently well-described that involves concepts of 'practices', 'discourse', 'power', 'identity' etc.  But as per visualization reality which is based on text mining approach, for gathering large amount of textual data, researchers require to be highly expert in such a field. Whereas, for adopting qualitative approach, they need to possess a substantive domain knowledge in order to understand as well as make interpretation on the same.

On the basis of nature of research question, context and its likelihood consequences, positivists use quantitative approaches for their project. While, interpretivists employ qualitative strategies for addressing research questions. As in general, under social science, quantitative research is used with deductive approach for testing a theory. Therefore, it is mostly used for either accepting or rejecting a hypothesis. In addition to this, it also consists statistical techniques which helps researchers in analysis and understanding patterns of society. Other than this, qualitative research mainly aims to conduct in-depth analysis and predict the social issues.

There are some other interesting concepts also that crossovers from qualitative to quantitative and showcase how a same topic is approached in different manner by using such methodologies. For example- Differences of population on gender basis seem to be studied more by undertaking a quantitative approach (Halperin and Heath, 2016). But through qualitatively analysis, issues around the same like identity and sexuality, some topics like "masculinity" can be pop-up. Similarly, on religious matters, research conducted through both approaches are quite looking same. But there is a typical control variable under quantitative studies, going to church, for an instance. Hereby, to discover religiosity and particular pattern, an in-depth analysis is required. Under social science, for analysing the concept of globalization and climate change, qualitative approach is generally focused on identity and its meaning.

But with respect to local communities and villages under developing nations, quantitative approach concerns more on economical growth, redistribution, cross national comparison and more. Henceforth, it has been concluded that as per  nature of research and associated issues, qualitative and quantitative divide states to adopt only one method at a time. Here, qualitative research embed a thicker description and take an analysis in wider manner. It also triggers research questions which needs to elaborate in quantitative manner. Therefore, researchers can switch both methods as per requirements of investigation for obtaining higher outcomes of a specific topic.

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Through this report, it has been concluded that methodological approaches and techniques can be varied as per social research. According to nature of research and questions that need to be identified, researchers can adopt either qualitative or quantitative approach. But before choosing any appropriate tool is crucial for researchers, to identify the purpose of conducting an investigation.   


  • Fraser, K., Tseng, T. L. B., & Deng, X. (2018). The ongoing education of engineering practitioners: how do they perceive the usefulness of academic research?. European Journal of Engineering Education. 43(6). 860-878.
  • Halperin, S., & Heath, O. (2016). Political research: methods and practical skills. Oxford University Press.
  • Kuehn, D., & Rohlfing, I. (2016). Are there really two cultures? A pilot study on the application of qualitative and quantitative methods in political science. European Journal of Political Research. 55(4). 885-905.
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