Business Research Methods | Introduction 3

Approaches to Research

The research approaches are broadly classified into two categories:

  • Quantitative Research
  • Qualitative Research


Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity in terms of numbers that can be measured exactly. It mostly uses statistical and mathematical tools to study the facts for concluding the research result.

It uses mean, median, mode, correlation, etc. This research focuses on collecting facts and numbers rather than abstract data.


Qualitative Research

This research focuses on collecting qualitative and abstract data rather than facts and numbers. This research tries to explain all the situations, problems, and possible results.

It doesn’t conclude research findings based on statistical and mathematical operations, but studies respondents’ opinions, views, emotions, behavior, feelings, etc.


Difference between Quantitative and Qualitative Research


  • Quantitative research focuses on numerical data and quantity.
  • Qualitative research focuses on qualitative and abstract data.


  • The general purpose of quantitative research is to experiment, predict, and test hypotheses.
  • The general purpose of qualitative research is to understand and develop the meaning and theory.

Sample size:

  • The sample size is large and random in quantitative research.
  • The sample size is small and purposeful in qualitative research.


  • Quantitative research is structured and predetermined.
  • Qualitative research is flexible and emerging.

Involvement of researcher:

  • There is less involvement of the researcher in quantitative research.
  • There is high involvement of the researcher in qualitative research.

Data collection:

  • Quantitative research uses questionnaires, scales, tests, etc.
  • Qualitative research uses interviews, observation, etc.

Data analysis:

  • Quantitative research uses a deductive approach by using statistical and mathematical methods for data analysis.
  • Qualitative research uses an inductive approach for analyzing data.


Paradigms Shift of Research

According to Wikipedia, “a paradigm is a distinct set of concepts or thought patterns, including theories, research methods, postulates, and standards for what constitutes legitimate contributions to a field.”

So in the general term, a paradigm is a broad view or school of thought about something. And paradigm shift refers to a major change in the concepts, practices, and philosophy of how something works or is accomplished.

The major two paradigms of research are:

  • Positivism
  • Interpretivism



Positivism is the research doctrine that is extracted from natural sciences. According to positivism, knowledge is gained by observing social facts and their realities.

It declares that we can study society and the world’s phenomena by applying research principles and theories. Society runs from the defined principles and believes that society is not complex but is a general concept.

The basic principles of positivism are:

  • Our society exists externally and can be viewed objectively.
  • Research is value-free. (A value-free approach aims to make the observations and interpretations as unbiased as possible.)
  • The research is totally independent and is controlled by objective perception.

Some assumptions of positivism are:

  • There is only one defined reality, fixed, measurable, and observable.
  • All genuine knowledge is based on objective perception and knowledge can be measured in quantity.
  • The aim of science is to test theory and its process is value-free.
  • The Foundation of science is based on strict logic and mathematics.
  • The only acceptable method to generate valid knowledge is using the quantitative research method.



This approach is the exact opposite of positivism and holds the view that the social world is complex and can not be judged by applying research principles adopted from the natural sciences.

Interpretivism is also known as social constructivism. Interpretivism believes that we can only interpret or perceive the truth, not measure it. We can only know what we can learn in thoughtful discussions with other knowledge seekers.

Interpretivism argues that simple fundamental laws or principles are not enough to understand the whole complexity of social phenomena. Also, this approach claims that an objective perception of the social world is impossible because every other person has their own base of knowledge and beliefs.

The basic principles of interpretivism are:

  • Society is judged and perceived by people subjectively.
  • We cannot separate the researcher from his/her observation.
  • Research is interest-driven.

Some assumptions of interpretivism are:

  • There exist multiple realities and society is constructed by the subjective perception of individuals.
  • Knowledge is gained through an understanding of social realities.
  • The goal of science is to describe people’s subjective realities, experiences, and understandings.
  • The social world is observed by understanding what people say about it from their subjective judgment.
  • The qualitative research method is the best way to understand the theories and principles.


Positivism vs. Interpretivism

Ontological assumption (The nature of reality):

  • Positivism, “reality is objective and singular, separate from the researcher.”
  • Interpretivism, “reality is subjective and multiple, as perceived by the researcher.”

Epistemological assumption (What constitutes valid knowledge):

  • Positivism, “researcher is independent of his/her research.”
  • Interpretivism, “researcher fully interacts with his/her research.”

Axiological assumption (The role of values):

  • Positivism, “research is value-free and unbiased.”
  • Interpretivism, “research is not value-free and biases can be seen.”

Rhetorical assumption (The language of research):

  • Positivism, “the researcher writes in a format style and uses the passive voice, accepted quantitative words and set definitions.”
  • Interpretivism, “the researcher writes in an informal style and uses the personal voice, accepted qualitative terms and limited definitions.”


Adhikari, D. R., & Pandey, D. L. (2016). Essentials of Business Research Methods (2016 ed.). Asmita Books Publishers & Distributors (P) Ltd.

Ivo Fon, Mbah. (2018). Disposal of E-Waste. Case Study: University of Bamenda. 10.13140/RG.2.2.27928.65287.

Kenton, W. (2020, August 29). Why Paradigm Shifts Matter. Investopedia.

Kreiner, G. E., Hollensbe, E. C., & Sheep, M. L. (2009). Balancing borders and bridges: Negotiating the work-home interface via boundary work tactics. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 704–730.

Kaminskiy, Konstantin. (2014). Internationalization of E-commerce: Peculiarities of the Russian market. Comparative study of online shopping preferences among Russian, Turkish, and Korean populations.

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