Simply put, quantitative methods are utilized when the research contains variables that are numerical, and qualitative methods are utilized when the research contains variables that are based on language (Field, 2013). Thus, each methods goals and procedures are quite different. This difference in goals and procedures drives differences in how a research paper’s introduction and literature review are written.
Introductions in a research paper allow the researcher to announce the problem and why it is important enough to be explored through a study. Given that qualitative research may not have any known variables or theories, the introductions tend to vary tremendously (Creswell, 2014; Edmondson & MacManus, 2007). Creswell (2014), suggested that qualitative methods introductions can begin with a quote from one the participants; stating the researchers’ personal story from a first person or third person viewpoint, or can be written in an inductive style. There is less variation in quantitative methods introductions because the best way to introduce the problem is to introduce the variables, from an impersonal viewpoint (Creswell, 2014). It is through gaining further understanding of these variables’ influence on a particular outcome is what’s driving the study in the first place.
The purpose of the literature review is for the researcher to share the results of other studies tangential to theirs to show how their study relates to the bigger picture and what gaps in the knowledge they are trying to solve (Creswell, 2014). Edmondson and MacManus (2007) stated that when the nature of the field of research is nascent, the study becomes exploratory and qualitative in nature. Given their exploratory nature, in qualitative methods, the researchers write their literature review in the form that is exploratory and in an inductive manner (Creswell, 2014). Edmondson and MacManus (2007) stated that when the nature of the research is mature, there are plenty of related and existing research studies on the topic, a more quantitative approach is more appropriate. Given that there is a huge body of knowledge to draw from when it comes to quantitative methods, the researchers tend to have substantially large amounts of literature at the beginning and structure it in a deductive fashion (Creswell, 2014). Framing the literature review in a deductive manner allows the researcher at the end of the literature review to state clearly and measurably their research question(s) and hypotheses (Creswell, 2014; Miller, n.d.).
To conclude, understanding which methodological approach best fits a research study can help drive how the introduction and literature review sections are crafted and written.
- Creswell, J. W. (2014) Research design: Qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches (4th ed.). California, SAGE Publications, Inc. VitalBook file.
- Edmondson, A. C., & McManus, S. E. (2007). Methodological fit in management field research. Academy of Management Review, 32(4), 1155–1179. http://doi.org/10.5465/AMR.2007.26586086
- Field, A. (2013) Discovering Statistics Using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). UK: Sage Publications Ltd. VitalBook file.