A researcher chooses a research method or design as a guide to formulate, answer questions, or test hypotheses (Fain, 2017). A research design is a strategy used to conduct a research study. It is a blueprint or plan used to answer specific questions, and it comprises three distinct elements, a plan, a structure, and a strategy (Bloomfield & Fisher, 2019). According to Clark & Vealé (2018), qualitative research is used to record data that is not in the form of numbers such as opinions, feelings, and experiences; quantitative research is used to measure data in the form of numbers. Although guidelines for conducting qualitative research exist, each project is unique, and the researcher must decide how to proceed. Because the researcher is the primary instrument of data collection and analysis in qualitative research, focus, and interpretive thinking. Qualitative research seeks to understand people’s experiences, the meanings they assign to those experiences, the psychosocial aspects of and language used in interpersonal interactions, and the factors that influence perspectives and interactions (Ramani & Mann, 2016). Through reflection, researchers can better explain the topic under inquiry by minimizing or disclosing their assumptions and biases while collecting, coding, and sorting qualitative data.
Qualitative research is also conducted in a natural setting, delving deeply into perceptions and meaning of experiences, institutional culture and practices, barriers and facilitators to change, and reasons for success or failure of interventions. Though researchers may design their study informed by existing theories or their observations, the primary goal is to explore participants’ experiences. Qualitative studies are exploratory; questions are open-ended, do not require a priori hypotheses, and are characterized by “how and why” rather than “what” questions. A well-formulated study question determines what understanding is gained and directly influences the study design and methods employed (Ramani & Mann, 2016). In contrast, quantitative research can be characterized as a formal, objective, systematic process used to describe variables, test relationships between them, and examine cause and effect associations between variables. Quantitative research generates numerical data, mainly informed by rationalist or post-positivist ideas and supported by several assumptions. Also, in quantitative research, control must be maintained. Control refers to the researcher’s methods to prevent or minimize factors that may influence or bias the findings Bloomfield & Fisher, 2019).
In quantitative research, the researcher’s involvement is defined as detached; in qualitative research, the role is participatory. Qualitative researcher gains access to the participants’ natural environment and is the leading research instrument used to collect and analyze data. In quantitative research, the researcher is objective and distant; however, qualitative research and interpretivism understand that individuals are complicated and respond differently to their environment, and do not require objectivity. Subjectivity is inevitable and often seen as valuable in qualitative research. Acknowledging that it is challenging to eliminate biases, qualitative researchers present their assumptions, values, and reasons for choosing the research topic directly in a positionality statement included in the study’s findings. Both research methods are essential and useful in evidence-based advanced practice nursing. However, the qualitative way best influences it because it records data related to individuals’ opinions, feelings, and experiences instead of numbers.
Bloomfield, J., & Fisher, M. J. (2019). Quantitative research design. Journal of the Australasian Rehabilitation Nurses’ Association (JARNA), 22(2), 27–30.
Clark, K. R., & Vealé, B. L. (2018). Strategies to Enhance Data Collection and Analysis in Qualitative Research. Radiologic Technology, 89(5), 482CT-485CT.
Fain, J. A. (2017). Reading, Understanding, and Applying Nursing Research (5 Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F. A. Davis Company.
Ramani, S., & Mann, K. (2016). Introducing medical educators to qualitative study design: Twelve tips from inception to completion. Medical Teacher, 38(5), 456–463.