The purpose of quantitative research is to attain greater knowledge and understanding of the social world. Researchers use quantitative methods to observe situations or events that affect people.1 Quantitative research produces objective data that can be clearly communicated through statistics and numbers. We do this in a systematic scientific way so the studies can be replicated by someone else.
The data is primarily used to:2
- Find patterns and averages
- Make predictions
- Test causal relationships
- Generalize results to wider populations
What Is the Basic Methodology for a Quantitative Research Study?
Quantitative research is structured around the scientific method. After observing the situation to be investigated, the researcher forms a hypothesis and then uses deductive reasoning by predicting how the data should look if the hypothesis is true, after collecting the data and analyzing it to confirm or reject the hypothesis.
The basic procedure of a quantitative research design is as follows:3
- Make observations about something unknown, unexplained or new. Investigate current theories or trends surrounding the problem or issue.
- Formulate a hypothesis to explain your observations.
- Predict outcomes based on your hypothesis and formulate a plan to test your predictions.
- Collect and process your data using one or more of the methods below.
- If your prediction is confirmed, verify your results, draw your final conclusions and present your findings. If it is disconfirmed, form a new hypothesis based on what you have learned and start the process over.
Quantitative Research Methods
GCU supports four main types of quantitative research approaches: Descriptive, correlational, experimental and comparative.4
This method is focused on the “what” question. It is used to describe the current status or circumstance of the factor being studied. Researchers using this method do not generally begin with a hypothesis. Rather, they develop one after collecting the data. Variables are not manipulated in this type of research and researchers do not use the law of probability. Survey research with large data sets falls into this design category.
This method is used to study relationships between factors, which are measured and recorded as research variables. This kind of research is used to detect trends and patterns in data. In a correlational study, variables are not manipulated. Thus, the results are not sufficient to establish the causes of the patterns and trends discovered. We can have correlational associated or correlational predictive designs.
Experimental Class Research
The experimental method studies whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between the research variables. The researcher controls or manipulates an independent variable to measure its effect on one or more dependent variables. This kind of research is commonly used in science fields such as sociology, psychology, chemistry and physics. Experimental class research includes a variety of designs such as pre- experimental, quasi-experimental and true experimental, and typically include parameters such as random or non-random assignment, manipulation of variables, and use of a control group.
This method focuses on comparisons. Researchers study groups that are pre-existing rather than created for the study. As in experimental research, the focus is the effect of an independent variable on a dependent variable. The difference is that there is either no control group, no random selection or no active manipulation variable. Comparative research can also include ex post facto study designs where archival data is used.
Examples of Qualitative Research Methods
Here are some examples of studies conducted in educational settings using the above research methodologies:3
- Descriptive: Marketing survey of 5000 consumers using a new detergent brand and compiling a description of the consumer experience and brand acceptance.
- Correlational: Studying the relationship between ACT scores and freshman GPA.
- Experimental: Testing whether or not an intervention can reduce procrastination in college students.
- Comparative: Measuring the effect of preschool attendance on social maturity at the end of first grade.
Advantages of Quantitative Research
Quantitative researchers aim to create a general understanding of behavior and other phenomena across different settings and populations. Quantitative studies are often fast, focused, scientific and relatable.4
The speed and efficiency of the quantitative method are attractive to many researchers. Data computing equipment makes it possible to process and analyze data quickly, even with large sample sizes. Surveys, polls, statistical analysis software and weather thermometers are all examples of instruments used to collect and measure quantitative data.
Researchers can clearly communicate quantitative results using unbiased statistics. When performed correctly, an analysis allows researchers to make predictions and generalizations to larger, more universal populations outside the test sample.1 This is particularly useful in social science research.
Quantitative studies are focused. The goals and design of the study are determined from the beginning, and the research serves to test the initial theory and determine whether it is true or false. Researchers like the control and simplicity.
If well designed, quantitative studies are relatable in the sense that they are designed to make predictions, discover facts and test existing hypotheses. Researchers use these studies to test theories about how or why certain events occur by finding evidence that supports or disproves the theories.
Experienced researchers know that all study methods have their flaws. Reliable quantitative research requires the knowledge and skills to scrutinize your findings thoroughly. This means carefully considering and reporting on your test variables, predictions, data collection and testing methods before developing your final conclusion.
Findings can be generalized if your selection process is well designed and the test sample is an appropriate representation of the population being studied.
When to Use Quantitative Research
In addition to situations where the above advantages apply, quantitative research is helpful when you collect data from a large group of diverse respondents. It is also a good method to use when your audience is more receptive to results in the form of facts, graphs, charts and statistics.
Quantitative research is often performed by professionals in the social science disciplines, including sociology, psychology, public health and politics. It is also widely used in the fields of education, economics, marketing and healthcare.
Researchers typically use quantitative data when the objective of their study is to assess a problem or answer the “what” or “how many” of a research question. In essence, the goal of quantitative research studies is to understand the relationship in a population between an independent variable and one or more dependent variables.
Ideally, when developing a study, researchers should review their goals as well as the claims they hope to make before deciding whether the quantitative method is the best approach.
Becoming a Quantitative Researcher
Most researchers are introduced to the various study methodologies while in school, particularly as learners in an advanced degree program. In the course of their doctoral journeys and careers, some researchers develop a preference for one particular form of study. One benefit of a high-quality education is learning the purposes and advantages of the various methodologies and how to apply them in your own research.
Gaining experience in quantitative research enables professionals to go beyond existing findings and explore their area of interest through their own sampling, analysis and interpretation of the data. Many choose their profession to be a statistician or a quantitative researcher consultant
If you are interested in conducting research or enhancing your skills in a research field, earning a doctoral degree can support your career goals. In a quantitative degree program, you will learn how to:
- Design a quantitative study
- Develop skills in quantitative data collection and working with statistical formulas
- Produce results and findings using quantitative analysis
Interested in becoming a quantitative researcher? Grand Canyon University offers a wide variety of quantitative doctoral degrees to help you get started in your field. Click Request Info above to learn more about the doctoral journey at GCU.
1SAGE Research Methods, Quantitative Research, Purpose of in 2017
2Scribbr, An Introduction to Quantitative Research in February 2021
4Formplus, 15 Reasons To Choose Quantitative Over Qualitative Research in July 2020
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.