Before writing a thesis or a research paper, you will be asked to define research methods. You have to name and describe these. This usually happens in the methodology part of the thesis. In this article I will show you exactly what methods are available and what the differences are.
Reading tip: How do I classify my research scientifically?

Qualitative research

Qualitative research aims at unknown and often small samples. You gain access to reality through subjective interpretation. Specifically, this means that you are observing or questioning something or reading something in the form of a literature analysis. You usually do this for highly individual or unfamiliar questions. The disadvantages are that you often interpret subjectively and this is vulnerable. Everyone could interpret something different from the data. You must therefore give detailed reasons for your interpretation of the data. Here are three examples of qualitative research.
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Quantitative research

These procedures include the standardized and structured collection of data. So it represents real-world problems in a numerical representation. However, this does not require small samples, but rather a large number of data sets. It is often based on the comparison of the data sets and, as a disadvantage, requires a problem that is more familiar. For example, a list of known technologies must be available before a survey on the technical equipment of SMEs can be carried out. So there are always defined patterns necessary for data acquisition.
Reading tip: Qualitative survey

Differences Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Qualitative research focuses on the view of the research object and is more individual. Quantitative research, on the other hand, focuses on the external perspective. In qualitative research, soft data is collected, which has to be interpreted and therefore can be used dynamically for several contexts. It’s about understanding a meaning and exploring something. This is in contrast to quantitative research, which collects hard data in the form of numbers and therefore wants to confirm firmly submitted hypotheses. It is therefore less possible to use them in other contexts. It’s also less about discovering something than about measuring.
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Recommendations for action for thesis

The decision on what to use in your research method should be yours. You have to weigh the exact subject of your research and often both methods are combined. For example, an expert interview can follow after a survey. This is often welcome in master’s theses, as they are more extensive. This is how you look at a problem from two perspectives. If the problem is more well known, then use the survey first and interpret the results with experts, and if the problem is unknown, use the experts to form a questionnaire.
One method is often enough in a bachelor thesis. So look carefully whether you are investigating a rather unknown problem or investigating something using an existing theory or reference. In the following I show 2 exemplary research questions for both types of research:

  • What are possible scenarios for a possible work 5.0 in SMEs? (Expert interviews)
  • Which technologies are used by project managers in distributed teams and how are these evaluated? (Survey and correlation analysis)

Reading tip: Build research design

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Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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