Qualitative vs Empirical Research: Difference and Comparison

Empirical research draws its conclusions strictly from ’empirical’ or ‘verifiable’ evidence.

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

Key Takeaways

  1. Data type: Qualitative research focuses on non-numerical data like opinions, emotions, and experiences, while empirical research emphasizes measurable, numerical data.
  2. Methods: Qualitative research employs interviews, observations, and content analysis, while empirical research uses experiments, surveys, and quantitative data analysis.
  3. Goal: Qualitative research aims to understand human behavior and underlying motivations, whereas empirical research seeks to establish cause-and-effect relationships and test hypotheses.

Qualitative vs Empirical Research

The difference between qualitative and empirical research is misinterpreted as the practical method being the independent research method dealing with numerical data and facts. In contrast, the qualitative approach is concerned with the descriptive analysis and opinions of the subjects.

Qualitative vs Empirical Research

But, empirical research is not an independent category and entails both qualitative and quantitative methods as subcategories.

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


Comparison Table

Parameter of ConclusionEmpirical ResearchQualitative Research
ConceptUsing the quantitative mode assumes fixed notions of reality, but qualitative uses 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 data to get the desired hypotheses.Multi-method is in focus because it is more naturalistic in the approach to understanding the social reality of the subjects.
Elements of analysisThe key elements are language, interviews, focus groups, data collection, numerical data, etc.Numerical and statistical data are critical elements of research.
ApproachThis research mode can be objective and subjective, depending on the researcher.This research mode is subjective as it involves different individualistic traits of subjects.


What is Qualitative Research?

The qualitative method is the research practice that considers the human subject to develop an understanding of human and social behaviour and to find a way to feel and react.

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The advantages of Qualitative Research are as follows:

  1. It allows for exploring the hidden research approaches, which numerical data alone cannot do.
  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, data duplication is impossible.

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

  1. Sampling size is not enough to provide the true reflection of ideas that the researcher wants to carry forward.
  2. A personal bias towards certain notions consciously or unconsciously influences it.
qualitative research

What is Empirical Research?

Empirical research is the analytical form of research method which collects information based on numerical data by employing statistical, mathematical, and numerical techniques from descriptive (qualitative) sources.

Surveys, focus groups, polls, experimental research, etc., are some of the elements of the analysis that it considers.

The advantages of Empirical research are as follows:

  1. One can easily collect more samples in less time by doing it quantitatively.
  2. Researchers can focus on specified cultural realities they want to explore.
  3. Most of the time, 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 expensive because the researcher will conduct the study at different locations.
empirical research

Main Differences Between Qualitative and Empirical Research

  1. The elements of analysis in Qualitative research are interviews, group discussions, case studies, etc., whereas, in Empirical research, the key elements are surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.
  2. The 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, it doesn’t always provide space for contradictions.
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Difference Between X and Y 2023 04 06T125710.996

  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

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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22 thoughts on “Qualitative vs Empirical Research: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The article is helpful to understand the difference between the empirical and qualitative research method. Thank you for sharing.

  2. This article provides a detailed understanding of the differences between qualitative and empirical research methods. Great work!


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