Difference Between Qualitative and Empirical Research

Empirical research is the research that draws its conclusions strictly from the ’empirical’ or ‘verifiable’ evidence. It is based on the measured and observed phenomenon and is based on the actual study of experiences rather than any theory.

This mode of research analysis can be further bifurcated into two subsets known as qualitative and quantitative research where the former deals with general description to studied phenomenon whereas the latter is based on the numerical analysis.

Qualitative vs Empirical Research

The main difference between qualitative and empirical research is often misinterpreted as the empirical method being the independent method of research dealing with numerical data and facts whereas qualitative method concerned with the descriptive analysis and opinions of the subjects.

But, empirical research is not the independent category and entails both qualitative and quantitative methods as its subcategories. We can, therefore, differentiate between these two as empirical research being a mode of research which entails both the qualitative and the quantitative methods of research whereas qualitative method is deals only with the descriptive analysis.

The empirical method gathers information from the numerical data by working on the predetermined notions and also by the qualitative method which incorporates non-numerical data such as interviews, focus groups, etc to get a more detailed idea of subject.


Comparison Table Between Qualitative and Empirical Research (in Tabular Form)

Parameter of ConclusionEmpirical ResearchQualitative Research
ConceptBy using the quantitative mode it assumes fixed notions of reality but for qualitative it uses the varied notions of reality. Quantifies data and makes sense of it in qualitative ways.Assumes a dynamic and negotiated reality i.e. qualitative mode of research works on the principle of descriptive data
MethodologyData is collected by measuring things both statistically and descriptively.Data is collected through participant observation and interviews.
AimsCombines both qualitative and quantitative aspects of a data to get the desired hypotheses.Multi-method in focus because it is more naturalistic in the approach to understanding the social reality of the subjects.
Elements of analysisLanguage, interviews, focus groups, data collection, numerical data, etc are the key elements.Numerical and statistical data are the key elements of research.
ApproachThis mode of research can be both objective as well as subjective depending on the researcher.This mode of research is subjective as it involves different individualistic traits of subjects.


What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative method is the research practice that takes into consideration the human subject to develop an understanding of human and social behavior and to find a way how they feel and react. It is a holistic approach that is subjective as it takes into account descriptive and the negotiated reality. Interviews, group discussions, case studies, language, etc are some of the unstructured elements of analysis that it takes into account. The objective of this kind of research is to understand the social realities of individuals, groups, and cultures.

Advantages of Qualitative Research are as follows:

  1. It allows exploring the hidden approaches of the research which numerical data alone is not capable of doing.
  2. Along with the research analysis, it allows for the contradictions to suggest the social reality of individuals.
  3. It follows no conventional standards therefore duplication of data is not possible in most cases.

Along with the advantages this research method has certain drawbacks as well such as:

  1. Sampling size is often not enough to provide the true reflection of ideas that the researcher wants to carry forward.
  2. It is consciously or unconsciously influenced by a personal bias towards certain notions.

What is Empirical Research?

Empirical research is the analytical form of research method which collects information based on the numerical data by employing statistical, mathematical, and numerical techniques as well from the descriptive (qualitative) sources.. The objective of this kind of research is to analyze and establish a cause and effect relationship between the variables and social behavior.

Surveys, focus groups, polls, experimental research, etc are some of the elements of the analysis that it takes into account. It uses the objective and subjective mode of research (which depends on the researcher) to get a conclusive understanding of the subject.

Advantages of Empirical research are as follows:

  1. One can easily collect a higher number of samples in less time by doing it quantitatively.
  2. Researchers can focus on specified cultural realities that they want to carry forward in their research.
  3. Most of the times it doesn’t require direct interactions with the subjects.
  4. It can be performed in a lab-like setting or on some naturalistic grounds.

Along with the advantages this research method also has certain drawbacks such as:   

  1. This kind of research is very time consuming and demands patience.
  2. It can also prove to be an expensive deed because the researcher will conduct the research at different locations.

Main Differences Between Qualitative and Empirical Research

  1. Qualitative research takes into account only the descriptive analysis to understand the social and human conditions whereas the Empirical method deals with both numerical analysis and descriptive analysis to get a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
  2. Qualitative analysis is holistic and subjective because it considers the social and cultural aspects of the research. Empirical analysis, on the other hand, can be both particularistic and subjective because it includes numerical and circumstantial data.
  3. Qualitative research is usually process-oriented because it follows no particular structure of research whereas the empirical mode of research is both a result and process-oriented. 
  4. The elements of analysis in Qualitative research are interviews, group discussions, case study, etc whereas in the Empirical research the key elements are surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.
  5. Qualitative mode of analysis is multi-method in focus, therefore, it allows ambiguities and contradictions but the Empirical method works by measuring things and drawing explanatory inferences, therefore, doesn’t always provide space for the contradictions.



Empirical research is the research that reckons empirical (identifiable) evidence to conclusively conclude. Empirical research is often mistaken to be the quantitative mode of research but it is one of the subcategories of empirical research. This kind of research uses holistic approach towards the subject by using both numbers and expressions.

The qualitative research method is holistic, subjective, and exploratory in its approach. The main objective is to understand the social reality of individuals, groups, and cultures. It uses no standard conventions of analysis; therefore, it allows contradictions and ambiguities in the conclusions.

Empirical research is a method that incorporates numerical and expository details to analyze the subject. It is both particularistic and subjective at the same time in its approach. It uses the standard conventions and no conventional methods to obtain facts and the descriptive data and therefore  at timesoffers no contradictions.


  1. https://rmitchel.uoregon.edu/sites/rmitchel1.uoregon.edu/files/resume/articles_refereed/1998-JED.pdf
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0169207095005917

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