Research is an important inquiry utilized by students in conjunction with describing, explaining, and discussing a phenomenon, idea, or concept in the social and natural sciences. Researchers are free to choose between two main approaches to investigate an issue – quantitative or qualitative.
Quantitative research is a type of empirical investigation where an analysis of a subject is developed by means of certain statistical and mathematical techniques. It was developed many centuries ago to meet the need for quantitative data and creating new knowledge. A quantitative research methodology is based on the idea of the empiricist paradigm, the principle of which is to discover the essence through evidence obtained in experiments. Collected data remains independent of a researcher, meaning that it can objectively measure a reality. Researchers usually use surveys or questionnaires to gather statistical information from groups of people, and then use this data to form generalizations with the help of computational techniques to explain the chosen phenomenon.
Goals of Quantitative Research
The main goal of a quantitative research design is to identify variables and determine their relationship within one particular population. From this, it is expected to quantify data through generalizing results. Students should also use this type of research in case they have to measure a number of views and opinions within the frames of one perspective. During the last several decades, students have found it effective to use a quantitative approach in conjunction with qualitative methods to thoroughly explore findings and discover a unique understanding of a topic.
Characteristics of Quantitative Research
- Quantitative research can be of two main types – experimental and descriptive:
- An experimental design focuses on causality, including dependent variables that have to be measured by means of independent variables several times during an intervention;
- A descriptive design aims at identifying relationships between dependent and independent variables, including a single measurement during a study;
- Quantitative research is characterized by a specifically chosen research instrument:
- Surveys may include dichotomous questions (with short YES-NO answers), multiple choice questions, or rating scales;
- Questionnaires consist of checklists and simple questions;
- Polls can be developed orally, in a written form, or online;
- Interviews are properly structured and organized in person, via telephones, or online.
- Quantitative research includes different sample sizes and can be repeated as per the needs of the researcher;
- Quantitative research questions must be developed beforehand and approved;
- All participants are randomly selected for quantitative research;
- Data has to be organized numerically, and arranged in tables, charts, or figures;
- Quantitative data analysis plays an important role in research and includes thorough explanations, description of statistical procedures, the use of inferential statistics, and the reduction of causality.
Structure of a Quantitative Research Study
One of the major outcomes of a quantitative research study is creating a final solution or proposing a course of action regarding available variables, background, and participants. As soon as a researcher makes a decision to use a descriptive or experimental design, research questions have to be formulated, and the relationship between variables must be identified. A research project that is based on the results of quantitative research may be organized according to the following outline:
- Introduction (the present tense is used to promote a general understanding of a topic and an urgent problem for discussion)
- Research problem
- Significance of research
- Goals of a quantitative research study
- Literature review (the analysis of available literature that is usually published within the last five years helps to synthesize data, already defined themes, and findings)
- Theoretical/conceptual framework (a hypothesis is developed, a theory is chosen, and all terms are explained)
- Research design (qualitative)
- Population and sampling (participants’ quantity, period, and location)
- Data collection methods (examples of questions have to be attached in appendices)
- Data analysis (statistical software are advisable)
- Results (objective findings are mentioned in a concise manner, and tables, graphs, or charts are recommended as part of the statistical analysis)
- Discussion (final evaluations, description, implications, and limitations are given)
- Conclusion (summary and recommendations are developed to prove the need of future research and introduce a possible frame)
Students are able to change the individual headings or the overall structure in case it is demanded within the instructions. However, this outline framework remains a frequent option for many academic projects where quantitative research has to be used. It is recommended to discuss a final format with an instructor and clarify all points before start working on a project. Sometimes, a simple clarification can help to avoid serious complications and multiple revisions later on.
You can familiarize yourself with the examples of quantitative research essays here.
Pros and Cons of Quantitative Research
As with any type of academic project, quantitative research has its own strengths and limitations. Students have to be aware of these details to make their final choice and be prepared for any possible challenges and tasks. Social and natural sciences have a number of issues to be analyzed, and quantitative research is an option that can facilitate a discussion or challenge a researcher who is not properly aware or prepared appropriately.
- There are a number of benefits to quantitative research:
- A large number of variables can be used within one research project;
- Accuracy and generalization of results are possible;
- Ease of planning of a project with clearly defined dependent and independent variables;
- Data collection is fast and up to the point;
- Data analysis can be quickly developed using special statistical software;
- Statistics can be used to create definite plans for future projects;
- Anonymity and confidentiality attracts the attention of participants;
- Personal bias is eliminated.
There are also several limitations that have to be recognized at the initial stage of a research process:
- A lack of contextual data;
- No ability to explore answers;
- A possibility of structural biases in the study;
- No detailed narrative explanations;
- No attention to participants’ feelings, awareness, or attitudes towards a problem;
- The necessity to calculate and base findings on numerical facts only;
- Unexpected costs that are connected with experiments.
In general, the development of quantitative research has both positive and negative aspects. On the one hand, it does not take much time to create a survey and get people involved in a project. On the other hand, it is hard to be sure of the credibility, appropriateness and accuracy of participants’ answers. Also, some students are challenged by the necessity to use specific statistical software. Therefore, they find it normal and less time-consuming to address an expert and ask for additional help. This guide is a good starting point for students or any researcher who may be challenged or stuck while developing a new quantitative research study.