Which Comes First?
In business research, both qualitative and quantitative research has its relevance, and finds application simultaneously. Qualitative research either precedes quantitative research and establishes a hypothesis for validation through a quantitative study, or follows quantitative research to make the quantitative data clear and powerful.
Qualitative research is explorative or investigative in nature, and its findings are not applicable across the universe. For instance, if a qualitative case study on a store finds that 75 percent of customers are repeat customers, applying the same across all stores requires formulating a hypothesis that says likewise, and undertaking a quantitative study to validate the hypothesis using tools such as questionnaires and a random sample of customers across different stores.
Conversely, qualitative researchers seek answers for the “why?" questions, remaining unsatisfied with the answers that a quantitative study may generate. For instance, if a quantitative study that states 75 percent of customers do not return to a store, a follow up qualitative study may examine the stores’ systems and policies, layout, staff competencies, and other factors, to explore the reasons why most customers do not return.