Overview of Quantitative Methods

Overview of Quantitative Methods

This modules provides a basic overview of quantitative research, including its key characteristics and advantages.

Learning Objectives

  • Define quantitative research
  • Describe the uses of quantitative research design
  • Provide examples of when quantitative research methodology should be used
  • Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative research


Once a researcher has written the research question, the next step is to determine the appropriate research methodology necessary to study the question. The three main types of research design methods are qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. The focus of this set of modules is qualitative research. However, the following introductory video, A Brief Introduction to Research Design, offers a brief explanation of each method and a comparison.

Quantitative methods are used to examine the relationship between variables with the primary goal being to analyze and represent that relationship mathematically through statistical analysis. This is the type of research approach most commonly used in scientific research problems. Following is a list of characteristics and advantages of using quantitative methods:

  • The data collected is numeric, allowing for collection of data from a large sample size.
  • Statistical analysis allows for greater objectivity when reviewing results and therefore, results are independent of the researcher.
  • Numerical results can be displayed in graphs, charts, tables and other formats that allow for better interpretation.
  • Data analysis is less time-consuming and can often be done using statistical software.
  • Results can be generalized if the data are based on random samples and the sample size was sufficient.
  • Data collection methods can be relatively quick, depending on the type of data being collected.
  • Numerical quantitative data may be viewed as more credible and reliable, especially to policy makers, decision makers, and administrators.

There are a variety of quantitative methods and sampling techniques that will be discussed in detail in the other modules in this unit. However, following are examples of research questions where quantitative methods may be appropriately applied:

  • How often do college students between the ages of 20-24 access Facebook?
  • What is the difference in the number of calories consumed between male and female high school students?
  • What percentage of married couples seek couples counseling?
  • What are the top 5 factors that influence a student’s choice of college or university?
  • How many organized sports activities has the average 10 year old child competed in?

The collection of numerical data through quantitative research methods lends itself well to large variety of research questions. The following modules in this series will explore when to choose quantitative methods, how to write a good research question, types of quantitative methods, data analysis, ethics and many other topics that will lead to better understanding of quantitative research.


Suggested Readings

Creswell, J. W. (2002). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative. Prentice Hall.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage Publications, Incorporated.
Neuman, W. L., & Robson, K. (2004). Basics of social research. Pearson.
Neuman, W. L., & Neuman, W. L. (2006). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches.
Malterud, K. (2001). Qualitative research: standards, challenges, and guidelines. The lancet, 358(9280), 483-488.
Robson, C. (2002). Real world research (Vol. 2). Oxford: Blackwell publishers.

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