Qualitative methods are not as scientific as quantitative methods.

First of all we must fully understand what Qualitative and quantitative research methods are. Qualitative research is aimed at discovering how and why people act in certain ways, in their own opinion. So it is often a written descriptive informatory piece that allows psychologists to see the reasons behind emotions and actions. Quantitative research on the other hand is usually an experimental type of research. In quantitative methods participants will often take part in experiments that will provide the participant with a comparable score that allows the research to analyse the data and compare all the participants.


Qualitative research is often in questionnaire (includes interviews) or observation form, with open ended questions that allow the participant to be open with their personal experiences rather than closed questions where it is just a yes or no answer. An example of a study like this is Freud’s study of Little Hans (1909) where open ended interviews and questionnaires were used to gain all the information Freud needed for his case study. However its not the case that all questionnaires and observations are Qualitative. Many questionnaires have sections that contain Likert Scales. These are the questions that say, “on a scale of 1 – 10, how do you agree with….”. An example of a Quantitative study would be that of Loftus and Palmer’s reconstruction of automobile destruction study (1974) where questions were asked about opinion of speed of car, which is answerable on a scale and therefore quantitative even though it is on a questionnaire. These questions allow comparisons and statistical analysis so fit into the Quantitative bracket. Many questionnaire use the duel approach and have questions that are quantitative and qualitative.


Because of these differences there is much argument about the scientific value that a qualitative study actually has. Many believe that there is no testable hypothesis so instead of being scientific it becomes more inquisitive and more of an exploratory test, with it being easy to describe ailments but difficult to explain them, so it has lost its scientific rigor.


This is my personal belief that, yes, qualitative research is needed to help gain a useful insight into the personal beliefs of the participant, but no, its is in no way whatsoever scientific. This is also shown by Johansson, Risberg and Hamberg (2003) who, after their meta-analysis have come to the same conclusion, that qualitative is highly relevant, but quantitative is scientific, with a mixture of both being the ideal study method.


8 thoughts on “Qualitative methods are not as scientific as quantitative methods.

  1. I disagree with you conclusion to your blog, you state that qualitative research “is in no way whatsoever scientific”. I agree that with you that it isn’t as scientific as quantitative, however the indepth analyses of a person from their responses can be exceedingly useful in establishing cause and effect and relationships between variables. This I believe proves that it is scientific. It is however a rather weaked scientific approach due to the great number of biases it is open to.

    Other than that single sentance I could not find fault from your argument

    Nice one 🙂

  2. A well written blog, first iv read of yours 🙂

    I agree with some of the points you make, however i have to agree with iamjackscompletelackofsuprise in that i disagree with your conclusion. I believe qualitative research is scientific due to the time and depth analysis that can be gone into to show the relationship between what is being studied.

    A nice read though!

  3. i also disagree with your conclusion, i believe that there are many ways in which qualitative research can be scientific. if objectivity is a problem, add more researchers to increase the interrater reliability. I know lack of numbers can cause people to believe that qualitative data is less scientific, however there are many ways that data can be coded in order to complete a statistical analysis. also, if qualitative data does not use a much technology such as computer problemss, there is much les room for mechanical error bodging up the reliability and validity. apart from that a great bog! 🙂

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  5. I agree with your closing comment that qualitative because it isn’t and its been proved by a number of studies (Johnson 2003 & showing its lack of scientific accuracy but i believe that qualitative research is necessarily for science as it explains how and why; not understanding how many. Improving this work should mean improving the reliability of its answers to how and why questions.

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  7. in reply to everyone above, yes i believe that qualitative work is necessary in modern psychological research, however i still believe it not too be scientific, it is too objective, in the sense that one persons feelings could be written down as happiness in a self report, and another person could also describe themselves as happy, yet this happiness is not equal and may not be the same feeling in each person. I think that when you start coding responses, giving values for responses or emotional feelings, then this turns into quantitative as it is now comparable between subjects and data analysis tests can be run on it. if the qualitative method was scientific, then why would it fight so hard to try and prove this too so many people, and yet so many still disagree or query the statement? just something to ponder 🙂

  8. Your conclusion talks about the mixed method design and I think this is quite an important thing to mention as it should be used above singular methods. Mixed method can provide further understanding that could have been missed using a singular method as well as increasing generalizability of the results (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004). I see the main reason for this method is to bypass the weaknesses of one method by using them both in a research study and this can also provide a lot of evidence for a good conclusion through convergence and corroboration findings (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).

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