The nursing profession continuously strives to improve quality by utilizing evidence-based practice and this requires a critical appraisal of the literature. Critical appraisal is the process of examining the quality of evidence and determining the credibility of the findings. This process is important for healthcare providers because it enables them to make informed decisions by choosing the right approach to practice, research, or education (Cavaleri et al., 2019). Qualitative and quantitative research designs are the two commonly used approaches for gathering scientific evidence. It is important to analyze how the quality of research is represented using the two designs and how well each approach addresses the original research questions.
The aim of the study is among the key features that determine the type of study design. Quantitative research designs usually have their aim stated in the form of a hypothesis that can be statistically tested (Cavaleri et al., 2019). Qualitative studies have a clearly defined independent variable that determines outcomes, well-known as dependent variables. In qualitative studies, the research questions focus on how and why aspects of the phenomenon. This research design is used to develop an integrated conceptual or theoretical understanding of a certain phenomenon (Tomaszewski et al., 2020). In general, the quantitative research design is used to test a hypothesis while the qualitative design investigates and documents knowledge about a certain phenomenon.
The validity and reliability of research findings are greatly dependent on the study design utilized. Qualitative and quantitative research have different study designs. Quantitative study designs are ranked according to the level of evidence that is produced during research. For example, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) produce the highest level of evidence (Borgstede & Scholz, 2021). Study designs for quantitative research include meta-analysis, systematic review, RCTs, cohort study, case study, longitudinal study, quasi-experimental study, and case-control study. Qualitative research cannot be appraised like quantitative study according to the study design. However, the strength of the evidence is dependent on the rigor applied in data collection and analysis (Tomaszewski et al., 2020). Examples of study designs for qualitative research include a structured interview, cross-sectional survey, focus groups, narrative analysis, and observational study. Irrespective of the research design used, the study design must be appropriate to address the aim of the study and answer the research questions.
One of the critical decisions in qualitative and quantitative research is whom or what to include in the sample. Random sampling produces the strongest level of evidence in quantitative research (Cavaleri et al., 2019). However, factors like money, time, and the recruitment process make random sampling limited. During sampling, quantitative research uses a formula based on the degree of error that will be tolerated. Qualitative research differs from the quantitative approach because purposive sampling is preferred and the sample size is relatively small (Borgstede & Scholz, 2021). This design requires the researcher to choose subjects who possess particular knowledge, characteristics, or experience that can influence positive research outcomes. The aim is always to gather in-depth data from the participants in qualitative approaches.
Qualitative and quantitative research should include a clear description of a systematic form of data analysis. In quantitative studies, data analysis is done statistically and if necessary, expert opinion from a data analyst must be used (Borgstede & Scholz, 2021). Qualitative designs usually consist of words and their meaning in the analysis section. The analyzed data must be interpreted in the context of the informants rather than the researcher (Tomaszewski et al., 2020). Overall, concluding qualitative and quantitative studies depend on how well the findings answer the research question.
Borgstede, M., & Scholz, M. (2021). Quantitative and qualitative approaches to generalization and replication–a representationalist view. Frontiers in Psychology, 12, 605191. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.605191
Cavaleri, R., Bhole, S., & Arora, A. (2019). Critical appraisal of quantitative research. Handb Res Methods Heal Soc Sci, 1027-49.
Tomaszewski, L. E., Zarestky, J., & Gonzalez, E. (2020). Planning qualitative research: Design and decision making for new researchers. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 19, 1609406920967174.
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