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PSY 2061 Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods

PSY 2061 Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods


There exists a fundamental distinction between two types of data:


Quantitative data is information about quantities, and therefore numbers, and qualitative data is descriptive, and regards phenomenon which can be observed but not measured, such as language.

>Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data Summary Table

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Qualitative research is the process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting non-numerical data, such as language. Qualitative research can be used to understand how an individual subjectively perceives and gives meaning to their social reality.

Qualitative data is defined as non-numerical data, such as text, video, photographs or audio recordings. This type of data can be collected using diary accounts or in-depth interviews, and analyzed using grounded theory or thematic analysis.

Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.

An interest in qualitative data came about as the result of the dissatisfaction of some psychologists (e.g., Carl Rogers) with the scientific study of psychologists such as the behaviorists (e.g., Skinner).


Since psychologists study people, the traditional approach to science is not seen as an appropriate way of carrying out research, since it fails to capture the totality of human experience and the essence of what it is to be human.  Exploring the experience of participants is known as a phenomenological approach (re: Humanism).

The aim of qualitative research is to understand the social reality of individuals, groups and cultures as nearly as possible as its participants feel it or live it. Thus, people and groups, are studied in their natural setting.

Research following a qualitative approach is exploratory and seeks to explain ‘how’ and ‘why’ a particular phenomenon, or behavior, operates as it does in a particular context. It can be used to generate hypotheses and theory from the data.


Methods (used to obtain qualitative data)


There are different types of qualitative research methods including diary accounts, in-depth interviews, documents, focus groupscase study research, and ethnography. 

The results of qualitative methods provide a deep understandings of how people perceive their social realities, and in consequence, how they act within the social world.

The researcher has several methods for collecting empirical materials, ranging from the interview to direct observation, to the analysis of artifacts, documents, and cultural records, to the use of visual materials or personal experience.

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