Qualitative Research Methods Better for Understanding Health Research Than Quantitative

Qualitative research methods are more effective in understanding health research than quantitative methods. Compared to the latter, qualitative approaches receive more recognition in health care research. Many institutions that fund health care research develop ethical guidelines to help them assess qualitative research. This clearly shows that these research methods have dominated areas that quantitative research methods used to be dominant. According to Runciman (2002), qualitative research methods are cost-effective, reliable, and more feasible than quantitative data collection strategies (Runciman, 2002). Some of the techniques used in qualitative research include interviews, observations, reviews, and focus groups among others. These methods gather data focusing on plugging the data into a bigger picture. On the contrary, with the quantitative research methods, the big picture cannot be understood. Runciman (2002) narrates in his article that even if these two methods complement each other, the latter is not cost-effective, reliable, or feasible.

In their article, “Rigor and qualitative research”, Mays and Pope (1995) argue that the use of rigorous qualitative research methods enhances dissemination of comparative health care reports, development of quality measures, and quality improvement among others (Mays & Pope, 1995). On the contrary, quantitative research methods are not as effective as the qualitative strategies in enhancing quality improvement in health care research. They use qualitative data collection techniques to explore complex phenomena that health care workers, policy makers, and patients encounter. They enhance explicit and comprehensive documentation of data obtained from surveys. According to Tong, Sainbury, and Craig (2007), the qualitative research methods help researchers to report important aspects related to health care. Many institutions that fund medical research develop randomized control trials with formal reporting guidelines to assess qualitative data collection techniques. They are more useful for eliciting patient priorities than quantitative research methods (Tong, Sainbury & Craig, 2007). They contribute a lot to improving the quality of medical care.

Qualitative research includes different methods in trials of complex interventions. This promotes provision of high quality evidence in research. Moffat, White, Mackintosh and Howel (2006) conducted a research to compare the effectiveness of the two research methods (Moffat, White, Mackintosh & Howel, 2006). They integrated random controlled trials in the two data collection methods. The results confirmed that the data collected from the quantitative research methods suggested minimal reasons why clinical approaches would be attracted to the strategy. On the contrary, qualitative data proved to be the most efficient, and hence enlisted practical or clinical interests. This research study clearly confirms that qualitative research methods are the most efficient strategies in understanding research compared to quantitative research methods.

In reference to Pope, Ziebland and Mays (2000), qualitative research methods produce vast information in health care research in the form of transcripts and field-notes. These include interview recordings, jotted and more detailed notes of observations, chronological account, and focus group discussions among others. Compared to qualitative data collection methods, quantitative approaches do not provide a descriptive record of the research (Pope, Ziebland & Mays, 2000). They document their claim which reflects the truth of a phenomenon through evidence retrieved from the gathered data.

Qualitative research methods are more reliable in terms of data accuracy than quantitative research methods. Brannen (2005) argues in his article that the former are the most efficient in research design, data collection and entry, as well as data interpretation and contextualization (Brannen, 2005). In most cases, quantitative researchers use their data to test the hypothesis that they declare in their studies. On the contrary, most researchers prefer qualitative research on new queries that have not been addressed by many researchers. In this case, it can be concluded that quantitative research methods are confirmatory, whereas qualitative research methods are exploratory. This indicates that the latter is more effective in understanding health care research than the former.

Some people may argue that qualitative research methods and qualitative research methods should be combined for cross validation because they complement each other. However, Sale, Lohfeld and Brazil (2002) argue that this should not be the case because these methods have different phenomena. For instance, quantitative research methods utilize closed-end surveys where similar questions get referred to all subjects (Sale, Lohfeld & Brazil, 2002). They also receive similar response categories. On the contrary, qualitative research methods rely on in-depth interviews, but not surveys, as in the case of the former.

Crowe and Sheppard (2010) argue in their article that both approaches share more similarities as compared to the differences between them. However, the current research shows that many research funding institutions of the 20th century have noted the efficiency of qualitative research methods (Crowe & Sheppard, 2010). This is because these methods deal with words (data), and not numbers. They are also cost-effective, reliable, and more feasible than the quantitative methods.

Qualitative research techniques are more valuable and can complement qualitative research. According to Pope and Mays (1995), the introduction of qualitative data collection methods makes it easy for clinicians, health care providers, and patients to understand health care research (Pope & Mays, 1995). Many changes have occurred in the health care sector. This has led to the emergence of a complex phenomenon, and hence the need for new methods of conducting research. This clearly shows that quantitative methods are not effective in understanding health care research. According to Sofaer (1999), qualitative research methods significantly reduce bias and error. They play a critical role in health care services, and health policy research (Sofaer, 1999).


Brannen, J 2005, ‘Mixing methods: The entry of qualitative and quantitative approaches into the research process’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 173-184.

Crowe, M & Sheppard, L 2010, ‘Qualitative and quantitative research designs are more similar than different’, Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice, vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 1-6.

Mays, N & Pope, C 1995, ‘Rigour and qualitative research’, BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 311, no. 6997, p. 109.

Mays, N, & Pope, C 2000, ‘Qualitative research in health care: Assessing quality in qualitative research’, BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 320, no. 7226, p. 50.

Moffatt, S, White, M, Mackintosh, J & Howel, D 2006, ‘Using quantitative and qualitative data in health services research–what happens when mixed method findings conflict? [ISRCTN61522618]’, BMC Health Services Research, vol. 6, no. 1, p. 28.

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Runciman, WB 2002, ‘Qualitative versus quantitative research—balancing cost, yield and feasibility’, Quality and Safety in Health Care, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 146-147.

Sale, JE, Lohfeld, LH & Brazil, K 2002, ‘Revisiting the quantitative-qualitative debate: Implications for mixed-methods research’, Quality and quantity, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 43-53.

Sofaer, S 1999, ‘Qualitative methods: what are they and why use them’, Health services research, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 1101.

Tong, A, Sainsbury, P & Craig, J 2007, ‘Consolidated criteria for reporting qualitative research (COREQ): a 32-item checklist for interviews and focus groups’, International Journal for Quality in Health Care, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 349-357.

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