Quantitative and Qualitative Nursing Research

Three of the characteristics of the quantitative research method are: it follows a series of predetermined steps in order to answer a specified question; it exercises a high level of control over chosen variables in order to establish clear relationships between them; and it uses deductive reasoning. The phases of the study are “conceptual, planning, empirical, analytic and dissemination” and the concepts to be studied, as indicated in the research question, are predetermined by the researcher. The aim of control is to make sure that the outcomes are related only to the selected variables so that conclusions about their relationships, such as cause-and-effect or correlation, would be scientific and hence credible and highly reliable. Broad theory is used as framework and validated in the study.

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An example of a quantitative research is a randomized controlled trial (RCT) wherein participants are randomly assigned either to the control group or the intervention group. In the study “A multifactorial intervention to improve blood pressure control in co-existing diabetes and kidney disease: A feasibility randomized controlled trial,” the intervention group received nursing care whose efficacy over conventional care is still to be determined while the control group received the usual care. Outcomes in the intervention group are then compared to that of the intervention group to determine if they are significantly superior, thus warranting adoption of the treatment in the workplace.

On the other hand, qualitative research is characterized by low levels of control, concepts of study are broad and are not predetermined, and the use of inductive reasoning. There is little use for control since it is an understanding of the subjective meaning of personal experiences, not relationships among variables, which is being derived. Concepts to be studied are not specific or fixed, as in quantitative research, but rather arise out of the narratives shared by study participants. The final product is a description specific to the chosen phenomenon which can be applied in a general sense to similar phenomena.

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An example of a qualitative research is phenomenology which entails deriving meaning out of a situation from the subjective perspectives of patients. It utilizes interviews in order for patients to share their perceptions of an experience so that common themes can be identified which will help nurses better understand and care for patients with a similar experience. In the study “Living with breast cancer: Iranian women’s lived experiences,” participants were interviewed and some of the dominant themes that emerged were a sense of loss, fear and dependence on others. It then becomes the responsibility of nurses to help breast cancer patients cope with these themes.