Articles

02 February, 2021

14 minutes read

Author:  Mathieu Johnson

Quantitative Research: Definition, Types and Examples

Quantitative research is one popular research method that has been in existence for several decades. Unlike qualitative research which involves collating and analyzing non-numerical data, this type of research involves using statistical methods to analyze data. It is majorly used in the natural and social sciences as well as professional fields like marketing.

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is one popular research method that has been in existence for several decades. Unlike qualitative research which involves collating and analyzing non-numerical data, this type of research involves using statistical methods to analyze data. It is majorly used in the natural and social sciences as well as professional fields like marketing.

This leads us to the big question: what exactly is quantitative research? Why is this research method so popular and when should you use it? 

Well, this article will provide a detailed insight into the world of quantitative research and when this research method should be used. 

What Is Quantitative Research? 

Wondering what quantitative research is all about? Here is a quick definition of this statistics-based research method:

Quantitative Research Definition 

Quantitative research is generally defined as a methodical investigation of certain phenomena by collating quantifiable data and analyzing the data through mathematical or statistical techniques. In simpler terms, this research method just involves gathering countable data and using mathematical methods to analyze the data. 

Quantitative research method is typically objective and aims to achieve logical, unbiased results. Under this research method, data is collected from a large sample that represents the entire population. The data is then investigated in order for the researcher to gain further insight and arrive at a logical conclusion. 

Quantitative Research Methods (Types) 

There are different types of quantitative research methods. They include:

Survey research

Survey research is one of the most fundamental types of quantitative research designs and is quite popular among students and professionals. Typically, this kind of research aims at explaining the peculiar characteristics of a particular population. As such, most organizations prefer carrying out surveys in order to get a clearer insight into customer behavior.

Survey research may be carried out using questionnaires, online polls, online surveys and so on. Once the researcher has conducted the survey on a pool of respondents, they can then go on to analyze the collected data and produce numerical results. 

Originally, this type of quantitative research was typically carried out through phone calls or face-to-face meetings. However, the advent of social media has made it possible for researchers to carry out surveys via online mediums. 

When carrying out this kind of research, it is important to ensure that your respondents are randomly selected. This way, you can end up with more accurate results and theories. 

Correlational research 

Correlational research is majorly conducted to draw a relationship between two entities or phenomena and examine the impact of one on the other. Usually, a minimum of two different groups are required to carry out this type of research successfully. 

When it comes to correlation research, it can be tempting to jump into hasty conclusions or make assumptions. However, the researcher is expected to conduct the study without unnecessary manipulations of any variable. 

Descriptive research

Descriptive research is quite simplistic in nature. Rather than drawing a comparison between two or more variables, it merely tries to explain and interpret the current state of a particular variable. It focuses on answering all the questions of a research problem in order to have a proper understanding of what it is about. 

For any researcher, it is important to get a clear picture of what a research problem is all about before going ahead to investigate the cause of the problem. This is where descriptive research comes in. 

For instance, an activist seeking to launch a campaign on climate change would need to understand the current state of the climate and how it has progressed or regressed over the years before investigating the causes of the change. 

Experimental research 

Also known as true experimentation, experimental research is an age-long research method that relies on unproven theories. Under this type of research, the researcher identifies a theory that has not been proven in the past and then carries out an analysis to either prove or disprove the theory. 

Although experimental research is majorly used in the natural and social sciences, other fields often employ this research method to establish the truth value of a statement. 

Causal-comparative research

Just like the name implies, causal-comparative research is based on comparison. This fundamental quantitative research method is typically used by researchers to establish a cause-effect relationship between two or more variables. 

This research method is often mistaken for correlational research but there’s a whole world of difference between them. Here, one of the variables being studied is dependent on the other independent variable. Causal-comparative research also extends to studying how various groups or variables evolve when subjected to the same influencing factors. 

Quantitative Research Questions 

What are the typical quantitative research questions? When carrying out any type of quantitative research, it is important to map out appropriate questions for your respondents that would guarantee clear, unambiguous answers. 

There are three major types of quantitative research questions that you may employ depending on the type of research you want to conduct. These are:

Descriptive research questions 

This type of research questions is often used when the quantitative research analyst wants to conduct descriptive research. These questions are targeted at getting the respondent’s answer or reaction to a particular variable. Most descriptive research questions may be aimed at quantifying one or more variables and could look like this:

  1. How much will you be willing to pay for a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine? 
  2. How often do you purchase skincare products? 
  3. How regularly do you invest in ponzi schemes? 
  4. What’s your maximum budget for a week-long vacation on a tropical island? 
  5. How much will you be willing to spend on a designer bag? 

Comparative research questions

Comparative research questions are often used to compare or draw clear differences between two or more groups. Some examples of this type of research questions include:

  1. What are the differences between attitudes to social media trends of millenials and middle-aged adults? 
  2. What is the difference between the social behavior of college students and high school students? 

Relationship-based research questions

This type of research question aims to describe a relationship or correlation between two or more variables within a particular group. Some examples are:

  1. What is the relationship between drug addiction and neurological disorders in young adults? 
  2. What is the correlation between latent sexism and the gender pay gap? 

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Quantitative Research Examples 

Looking for an example of quantitative research and the way it is used? Here are a few to get you started:

  1. If an organization is about to create and launch a new product such as a food delivery app, they may collect quantitative data and metrics on consumer behavior towards online grocery shopping. This data can be collected by running online and physical surveys or polls. Once the organization has collated quantifiable data from the surveys, they can go on to analyze the data and determine the size of their target market and the implications on their estimated ROI . 
  2. If a marketing brand is trying to gain a clearer insight into social media habits for their next marketing campaign, they could carry out a survey on different demographics or groups of people. They could conduct a survey on teenagers, middle-aged adults and elderly people to examine how they react to social media trends and how this affects brand-consumer relationships. 

Pros and Cons of Quantitative Research 

There are many advantages or benefits of quantitative research. This explains why this method is widely used among researchers and organizations. Some of the merits of using the quantitative research method are:

  1. It helps the researcher collect accurate and reliable data: The major goal of any research or study is to end up with accurate and reliable results. With quantitative research, this goal is fairly easy to achieve. All data is collated, analyzed and presented in numbers, thereby offering a reliable and genuine picture of the research. This way, researchers can end up with true results rather than mere assumptions or hasty conclusions. 
  2. Eliminates bias: When it comes to research, it’s quite easy for any researcher to let their personal bias seep into the work. However, quantitative research offers no avenue for personal opinions or manipulation of results. Since data analysis is done through numerical methods, the researcher is sure to arrive at an objective, unbiased conclusion. 
  3. Quick and seamless data collection and analysis: Collecting data is usually one of the most time consuming phases of conducting a research. However, quantitative research allows for a quick and seamless data collection process. The research is typically carried out on a group of respondents that represent a larger population. The use of pure statistics to analyze the data gotten from these respondents makes the entire process swift and straightforward. 
  4. Direct comparisons of results: In quantitative research, where one research work stops, another begins. The research can be reproduced by switching up the variables. For instance, another researcher may reproduce the study in a different cultural setting or with a different group of participants. This would make it easier to compare results statistically and point out marginal differences. 

Disadvantages of quantitative research 

Even though quantitative research is highly beneficial to any researcher who decides to employ this research method, it also has a few limitations which include:

  1. Structural bias: Although quantitative research is often touted as a reliable and objective research method, structural bias may still seep into the picture and affect the entire research work. For instance, missing data or use of the wrong sampling methods can utterly ruin the research and lead to the wrong conclusion. 
  2. False focus on numbers: Since quantitative research deals solely with numbers and mathematical techniques, researchers often focus so hard on pursuing statistical relationships that they end up missing the bigger picture. Some situations or theories may have broader themes or relationships. However, most quantitative research analysts focus solely on numbers and eventually miss the bigger information. 
  3. It can be difficult: Most researchers who conduct this type of research are often under undue pressure to set up a concrete research model and end up with organized, reliable results. However, this is quite difficult to achieve as the slightest error or execution slip can invalidate all your results and render the work unreliable. 
  4. Does not explore the “why” and “how” of a phenomenon: Quantitative research never explains the causes or background context of a phenomenon. Rather, it conducts a number-based analysis of the phenomenon and leaves the rest to qualitative research. 

When to Use Quantitative Research 

Wondering the best time to use quantitative research? Most researchers use quantitative research when they want to confirm a theory or hypothesis. It is also used to get logical, objective answers or conclusions. 

However, some researchers may choose to combine this research method with qualitative research in order to get a more comprehensive understanding of the research problem. In this case, one may decide to use qualitative research to explore a problem and scope out the research question. 

Subsequently, you may then use quantitative research to get answers to the questions raised during the qualitative research phase. 

Tips for Carrying out Quantitative Research 

Here are some suggestions to help you conduct quantitative research:

Make your research goals clear and concise

Before you hop into the data collection process, it’s important to know your research goals. What exactly are you trying to achieve by the end of the study? What tools would help you achieve your aim? By mapping out your goals before data collection, you’d be able to get the right amount of data and secondary tools needed for the study. 

Choose a suitable sample size

The ideal sample size for quantitative research largely depends on the general population and aim of the research. When carving out a sample size, ensure that it ably represents the population and is large enough to have statistical significance. 

Stick to clear, simple questions 

For researchers who may be carrying out surveys, it’s important to stick to only simple questions. Most surveys involve a large demographic of people and the data collection process will be exhausting if respondents have to pore over complex questions. As such, it is highly advisable to set clear questions that respondents can understand easily. 

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