R can use quantitative, qualitative research methods or a combination of the two. Quantitative and qualitative techniques can be said to offer a trade-off, between breadth and depth, and between generalizability and targeting to specific populations. Before you choose the most appropriate methods and design for your IR study, it is important to understand some of the principles behind both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Table 3 provides a summary of the characteristics of both methodologies.
The main difference between quantitative and qualitative approaches comes from the research traditions and the philosophy of how researchers in each research tradition see the nature of the world. Researchers from the natural science tradition developed quantitative research methods, where the philosophical approach in creating knowledge is through positivism. Knowledge creation is characterized by empirical observation, the testing of theories and development of universal laws. Qualitative research methods on the other hand came from a social research tradition, where social phenomena (reality) are considered to be constructed through interaction among individuals in the community. A shared understanding or interpretation of its nature creates the meaning of the phenomena. These meanings are constructed within the context (for example cultural beliefs) where the phenomena exist. Therefore, the nature of reality is subjective and particular to the interpretation given to them. Click on each heading for details.