Qualitative vs Quantitative Research and their Contributions to Mass Media Studies

Colleen Harley
4 min readNov 13, 2022


When studying any subject, research is an essential part of learning and understanding what subject we are learning about. The mass media and mass communications worlds are no exception to that. When we research different theories and ideas revolving around media, oftentimes, new theories come about from that research being conducted, thus helping us further understand the way we communicate as humans both through media and through interacting with one another.

A breakdown of quantitative vs qualitative research methods was published on scribbr.com, and defined as;

Quantitative research is expressed in numbers and graphs. It is used to test or confirmtheories and assumptions. This type of research can be used to establish generalizable factsabout a topic.

Common quantitative methods include experiments, observations recorded as numbers, and surveys with closed-ended questions.

Qualitative research is expressed in words. It is used to understand concepts, thoughts or experiences. This type of research enables you to gather in-depth insights on topics that are not well understood.

Common qualitative methods include interviews with open-ended questions, observations described in words, and literature reviews that explore concepts and theories. (Streefkerk 2019)

Quantitative vs Qualitative Research
Quantitative vs Qualitative Research

An example of a qualitative research that contributed to the mass communication world, was a study that aimed to understand how a lifestyle intervention tool could help overweight and obese women ultimately change their lifestyles and eating habits. 15 women who fell into those categories were studied using focus groups, observation methods, and interviews, and the study ultimately concluded that women made dietary and lifestyle changes after using the 6P Intervention Tool (6P Standing for Portion, Proportion, Pleasure, Phase, Physicality, and Psychology).

In the first qualitative study, we have shown that the 6P tool and its accompanying mobile health messages were perceived to be acceptable, relevant, and useful. Improvements were made based on the suggestions of the study participants, and a digital version of the 6P tool was used for the second validation study, which incorporated the new feedback, recommendation, and goal setting features, as well as personalized mobile health messages tailored to selected goals. (Ku, Loo, En Lim, Tan, X, Ho 2021)

This study helps to showcase that by using text messages, conducting interviews, and focus groups- we can better understand how to better communicate with certain types of people- especially when we are seeking to make a change.

Lifestyle Changes using Communication

I also took a look at a study that used quantitative research to understand how those methods of research can ultimately help change the way we communicate via mass media. The study ultimately aimed to learn about physical education teachers recruitment and retention efforts. Using surveys, and data analysis, the ultimate purpose of this study was to see how recruitment websites and guidelines up until 2015 could be made more efficient and effective at producing more physical education teachers out of undergraduate and graduate students looking to move into the field.

Coordinators from 210 undergraduate PETE programs, representing an initial response rate of 41.58%, completed the survey. Of those respondents, 34 indicated that their PETE programs were no longer enrolling students. These programs did not meet the participation criteria (i.e., only active PETE programs at 4-year institutions were included) and were therefore excluded from both the numerator and denominator in calculating the response rate. (Richards, Killian, Graber 2019)

As you can see, from just one survey, the authors who conducted the research and study were able to eliminate and better tailor their results from the research done by conducting surveys that covered key aspects of the recruitment website (PETE programs no longer accepting students/ones that were). The survey also asked demographic questions to help better understand the subjects they were studying, and ultimately coming to better conclusions as to why retention rates were low, versus high. Below, is a better view of survey responses based on demographics of the participants.

Demographic responses from survey study.

In the end, I think both are very effective methods of research, but the open ended opportunities and physical communication of qualitative research I personally believe ultimately ends up being more effective. Numbers and surveys are great when discussing things with clear concise answers- but when it comes to open ended reasoning and conclusions, i believe qualitative research is the way to go. You get to chat with participants in the research, and ultimately ask more questions that will allow you to further understand your subjects/target audiences when it comes to mass media/communication efforts.