The Use of Quantitative, Qualitative, and Both Types of Research in a Dissertation 

Three Types of Research to Be Used by Every Student

The following guide describes briefly the primary characteristics of the different types of research for a dissertation – the qualitative and quantitative methods and even a mixture of both types. Without being too exhaustive, the primary aim here is to explain what both these research types are and what is involved in each type. While you are reading through the different sections, do your best to keep your own particular dissertation project in mind and try to work out whether any of these dissertation types might suit your goals. Once we have finished describing the three different types we suggest a few personal, practical, and academic reasons why you might decide on one particular type more than another for your task.   

Dissertation Types

Whilst describing the key characteristics of the different dissertation types, our website - TopThesis.com – offers additional advice to help you through the quantitative type dissertation, regardless of whether you are a business, education, psychology or social sciences student or whether you are studying some other science-related degree (e.g. biology, medicine, sports, or another science). Despite this, you should still get value from this guide on qualitative, quantitative, and both methods dissertations, even if it is only to help you decide if any of these dissertation types are suitable for you. The different types are discussed here in the following order: the quantitative type, the qualitative type, and the mixed methods type:

The Quantitative Type of Dissertation

The word “quantitative” is used to describe a type of dissertation. It is not just a reference to a dissertation that uses quantitative methods of research methods or techniques that involve statistical analysis. The quantitative type of research uses a specific approach when dealing with theory, addressing a hypothesis and/or research question, developing a suitable strategy for a piece of research, drawing conclusions from findings or results, etc. In fact, there are some classic paths that a dissertation writer can adhere to. These include theory-based research, data-based studies, and studies that use replication. Nonetheless, no matter what route you choose, a quantitative dissertation has quite a few key characteristics.   

  • Typically, they aim to test and/or build upon theories, whether the approach taken is an original one or one based on some form of extension or replication.
  • This type of dissertation answers or addresses questions of the quantitative research variety and/or null (or research) hypotheses.
  • In most cases, this type of dissertation is underpinned by research paradigms of the positivist or the post-positivist variety.
  • There are four broad-ranging research designs (quantitative varieties) that this dissertation type draws on. (These four designs are the descriptive, the experimental, and the quasi-experimental and relationship-based types.)
  • Quantitative dissertations attempt to use sampling methods of the probability variety, with the aim of developing generalizations out of the samples the researcher is studying to a larger population, even though at the end the sampling methods used are often of the non-probability variety.  
  • The methods of research used by these dissertations generate quantitative-type data such as questionnaires, interviews, surveys, observation, lab-based methodologies, data sets, and so on.
  • They also use statistical analysis methods to a considerable extent for examining collected data, whether the nature of this is inferential or descriptive.
  • They evaluate the quality of the results or findings, not least in relation to their validity (external and internal), reliability, and construct soundness.  
  • These dissertations report results or findings with the use of data, graphs, tables, and statements that directly address the hypothesis and/or each of the research questions.  
  • They draw conclusions according to the described results or findings, hypotheses, theories, and/or research question(s) as a way of expanding on and/or testing any theories that already exist or to provide insight in respect of theories that may emerge in the future.  

In the event you decide to write a quantitative-style dissertation, you should visit the “Quantitative Dissertation” section of TopThesis.com’s website for more information. Here, you should learn about the unique characteristics of this type of dissertation, as well as get advice on the three possible routes that usually pertain to quantitative-type research. To recap, these are theory-based studies, data based studies, and studies that use replication methods. Once you have decided which route to pursue, the guide on our website will take you through the different steps, from choosing a topic to the completion of your dissertation. We will also give you advice on how best to write a quantitative dissertation.

The Qualitative Type of Dissertation

In general terms, a qualitative dissertation bears a lot of similarity to qualitative-type research. The methods usually associated with this type of research include the use of focus groups, observation on the part of participants, and interviews (of the unstructured variety). Although these dissertations use certain methods of research not applicable to quantitative-style dissertations, a qualitative research entails a lot more than merely choosing between methods of research. With qualitative-style research, the approach applied to setting research questions, developing and using theory, choosing a strategy for research, the method of discussing and presenting findings, the research process itself and so on is quite particular. In overall terms, a qualitative dissertation takes a considerably different approach, with much dependent on the actual route the writer adopts e.g. the use of ethnographic data for research compared to the use of case studies. The traditional routes that are available for undertaking qualitative research include the phenomenological, narrative, grounded theory, ethnography, case study, and auto ethnography (self-reflection) types. Nevertheless, no matter which route the student chooses, a qualitative dissertation has a number of broad features or characteristics to be aware of:

  • Their design usually follows an emergent pattern, which means the process of research, and even occasionally the associated research question(s), frequently evolve while the dissertation itself is developing.  
  • Theory is used in various ways – at times it is used to aid the process of research; at other times, it is used for developing new insights (of a theoretical nature), and by times both ways are used. However, the aim is rarely to test a specific theory from the word go.
  • One of several research paradigms can be used to underpin a qualitative dissertation. These paradigms include constructivism, critical theory, and interpretivism, as well as a number of others, 
  • These dissertations use research designs that have a considerable influence on your choices during the research stage, and during the discussion and analysis of your findings (e.g., research designs like these are considerably different according to the route you are taking i.e. whether this involves auto ethnography, case studies, and the other types previously mentioned.   
  • These dissertations attempt using sampling of the theoretical type – a set of non-probability samplings – with the aim of studying and reviewing cases (e.g. involving individuals or companies/organizations) that are suitable for answering the student’s research question(s).
  • They use natural settings i.e. people-in-the-field studies, often involving a number of research methodologies, each designed to return qualitative data. The methods can include focus groups, the observations of participants, interviews (the unstructured variety), and so on. 
  • The qualitative data is interpreted through the biases and perspective of the person conducting the research, moving backwards and forwards through the collected date (e.g. in an inductive manner) in order to identify abstractions and themes that contribute to building an overall picture of the matter under investigation.
  • These dissertations evaluate the quality of findings to determine how dependable, reliable, transferrable, and valid they are and to test their conformability. 
  • They set out the findings (and discuss these) using narratives, case studies, the writer’s own account(s), and any other methods that pinpoint abstracts, themes, observations, contradictions, and processes that contribute to answering the research problem(s) or question(s).  
  • They explore and discuss any theoretical enlightenment that arises out of the results or findings in respect of the research question(s) and, from these, they can arrive at provisional conclusions.

If it is the case you decide to write a qualitative-style dissertation, it is almost certain you will learn at least a little amount about suitable methods of research and sampling methods by referring to the guide on our website. Our company has yet to release a special section on qualitative-type dissertations. If, however, you think we should do this in the near future, please let us know.  

The Mixed Method Type of Dissertation

Using the mixed methods approach means a dissertation uses a combination of the quantitative and qualitative methods for research purposes. While this method has gained in legitimacy and its use is increasing, there is very little documentation about how these dissertations are constructed. The reasons for using the mixed methods approach to dissertation writing are numerous and these include the belief that research questions can be addressed more effectively by:

  • Gathering both quantitative and qualitative data for analysis and interpretation, to be done either separately or in a combined manner. 
  • Undertaking in excess of one phase of research: This could mean using qualitative-type research to examine a particular issue and reveal important themes, and then using the quantitative method to evaluate any relationship that may exist between the different themes.

One difficulty or challenge associated with a dissertation that involves both quantitative and qualitative research is that the two methods use quite a different approach (as will have become evident in the earlier sections of this guide). In several respects even, these two research approaches are the opposite of each other. Hence, if you choose the mixed method option, you will have to be especially careful when thinking about the objectives of the research you are doing, and if the quantitative and qualitative elements are 1) more critical in terms of the theoretical, practical and philosophical aspects and 2) best done separately or in combination.

As is the case with qualitative-style dissertations, TopThesis.com has not yet added a section about the mixed methods approach to our website. You should, however, learn a great deal about most of the features of the quantitative approach from our site if you decide to write a mixed method dissertation. In fact, it may be possible for you to entirely use this section of our site if you only need to use the qualitative approach for exploring various issues and/or finding important themes before you then have to carry out some quantitative-type research to investigate these themes in greater depth. In any case, please let us know if you think we should add a detailed section on mixed method dissertations to our website.