Comparing and Contrasting Quantitative and Qualitative Research Approaches in Education: the Peculiar Situation of Medical Education

Amira Mohamed ElSaid Farghaly


Research is about trying to discover the world and its phenomena in a systematic and structured manner. Humans have approached research in different ways based on their assumptions about social reality, knowledge, and human nature, namely ontology, epistemology, and methodology. These assumptions gave rise to two poles; quantitative and qualitative research and they have long been viewed as a dichotomy that can never be subject to compromise. This view has slightly changed with the realisation that quantitative and qualitative research can be complementary to each other. This is usually the case when the need for theory emerges and gets realised by qualitative research in order to guide quantitative research. Medical education is a social science that has almost the same categorisation of assumptions about the world. Medical educators and educationists apply both quantitative and qualitative research in order to elucidate some insights about teaching and learning in medicine, and about the best evidence and the best practices that can be applied by healthcare providers and medical educators. The aim of this review is to highlight the main similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research approaches/paradigms, present their origins from a historical and philosophical background, and focus on the case of medical education in terms of how it tackles quantitative and qualitative research, and what special attributes of medical education should be taken into consideration while conducting research.


research approach; quantitative; qualitative; medical education

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