How to Use Quantitative Data Analysis for a Strong Thesis Statement

Male doctoral student working on his dissertation thesis

Professionals who aspire to ascend to the C-suite or other executive positions often decide to return to school to enhance their academic qualifications. Earning a doctoral degree based on quantitative data analysis is an excellent way to accomplish these goals.

While earning a doctoral degree, you will be required to write a dissertation. A dissertation is a book-length manuscript that explains the problem addressed, processes and findings of original research you conduct. One of the steps you’ll take to complete your dissertation is defining a research topic and writing a strong thesis statement to clearly explain the particular focus of your research. This guide discusses the application of quantitative data analysis to your thesis statement.

Writing a Strong Thesis Statement

In a relatively short essay of 10 to 15 pages, the thesis statement is generally found in the introductory paragraph. This kind of thesis statement is also typically rather short and straightforward. For example, if you’re writing a paper on the differences between corporate charitable donation strategies, your thesis statement might read something like this: It is not known what the differences in charitable donation strategies are in four U.S. corporations.

For a lengthy dissertation, however, the thesis statement may be found throughout the entire introduction or first chapter of the dissertation. You’ll also use your thesis statement in your dissertation proposal.

A dissertation proposal is a 70 to 150 page paper that outlines the research you intend to undertake, the methods you’ll employ to conduct it, and the questions you plan to answer or theories you wish to test. The purpose of a dissertation proposal is to convince your dissertation committee and department to approve your chosen dissertation topic. Although you should have a preliminary idea of your thesis statement when you write your proposal, keep in mind that you may refine it over time. In other words, your thesis statement might look quite different when you finish your dissertation than when you first wrote your proposal, and that’s perfectly fine.

Understanding Quantitative Data Analysis

Quantitative data analysis may sound like a mouthful, but it’s actually quite simple. It refers to the statistical analysis of numerical data. Thus, it contrasts with qualitative data analysis, which refers to the analysis of non-numerical data.

Note that it’s possible to conduct a quantitative analysis of qualitative data; however, you must first convert such qualitative data into numerical form without losing their meaning. For instance, if you’re studying the effects of various colors of wall paint on office workers’ productivity, you might code the color orange ‘1’, the color yellow ‘2’ and so on. You would then be able to perform a quantitative analysis.

All doctoral students who are completing a quantitative-based degree program will conduct quantitative research. This type of data analysis is useful for the following types of research: 

  • Testing a scientific hypothesis, such as a hypothesis about the incidence of a specific disease in a certain group of people 
  • Analyzing the relationships among variables, such as the difference between the availability of free lunch programs and the duration of students’ attention spans in the afternoon 
  • Measuring the differences between groups or variables, such as the relationship between popularity of various employee development programs and employee satisfaction

Before you can write a strong thesis statement for your dissertation, you’ll need to know exactly what you plan to study and which questions you hope to answer through your research. Your thesis statement should also acknowledge your use of quantitative research methods.

A Quick Look at Quantitative Research Methods

Although your main thesis statement will likely include just a few sentences, you’ll need to provide supporting details. When writing your dissertation proposal, you’ll also need to offer some basic information about the quantitative research methods you plan to use for your work. Similarly, when writing your introduction, you will need to explain how you conducted your research and how you completed your quantitative data analysis because these crucial details will substantiate your main thesis statement.

Here’s a quick look at the main types of quantitative research methods

  • Descriptive research: After identifying a variable, this type of research describes its current status. Often, descriptive research requires very large sample sizes and is used to describe a population. 
  • Correlational research: This type of quantitative research explores the relationship between two or more variables. 
  • Causal-comparative: This type of research seeks to establish the differences in variable(s) between groups. 
  • Quasi-experimental research: This type of research seeks to establish a cause-effect relationship between variables. 
  • Experimental research: Employing the scientific method, experimental research determines cause–effect relationships between and among variables by strictly controlling for all variables except one independent variable.

After you have conducted your research and analyzed your findings, you can compare them to the original thesis statement you outlined in your dissertation proposal. From there, you can reflect on your quantitative data analysis and compare your findings to those of other researchers.

Applying Quantitative Data Analysis to Your Thesis Statement

It’s difficult—if not impossible—to flesh out a thesis statement before beginning your preliminary research. If you’re at the beginning stages of your dissertation process and are working to develop your dissertation proposal, you will first need to conduct a brief but broad literature review. You’ll conduct a more in-depth literature review after your topic is approved.

Based on your findings from the extant literature, you can begin to formulate your own original ideas regarding your topic. For instance, let’s say your dissertation focuses on the ways in which secondary school athletics affect students. Scholars have already produced much research about the benefits of sports for students, but you might notice research gaps in certain areas of the field. For example, what effects do sports have on students after graduation? Do years in sports relate to amount of soft skills in students?

You can begin to shape your thesis statement based on the questions that arise during your preliminary literature review. For instance, you may find existing research that indicates high school sports teach students to work cooperatively and communicate effectively with their peers.

Of course, because you’re writing a quantitative, data-driven dissertation, you will need to express these ideas numerically. Therefore, your thesis statement might look like this: “High school students who play sports are more likely to develop teamwork skills and develop solid communication abilities than high school students who do not play sports. My dissertation research will examine if these benefits persist long after students graduate.” As the above discussion and examples demonstrate, the key to writing a strong thesis statement is to substantiate your assertions with concrete statistics using your own quantitative data analysis.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Doctoral Studies is pleased to offer a wide variety of doctorate degrees, including the Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership: Health Care Administration (Quantitative Research) degree, the Doctor of Business Administration: Data Analytics (Quantitative Research) program and more. Click on Request Info above to begin planning your doctoral education today.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.