When to Use Quantitative Methods

When to Use Quantitative Methods

This module describes when to choose quantitative methodology in research and explores the difference between qualitative and quantitative research.

Learning Objectives

  • Compare and contrast quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Describe when quantitative research methods should be used to examine a research problem
  • Provide examples of the appropriate use of quantitative research methodology


The previous module provided an overview and general definitions of quantitative research, as well as several examples. This module will expand upon that and delve more in depth into the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and how to select the appropriate methodology for your research problem.

Researchers should begin by asking themselves the following questions:

  • What type of question am I asking?
  • What type of data will I need to collect to answer the question?
  • What type of results will I report?

For example, a researcher may want to determine the link between income and whether families have health insurance. This is a question that asks, “how many” and seeks to confirm a hypothesis. The methods will be highly structured and consistent during data collection, most likely using a questionnaire with closed-ended questions. The results will provide numerical data that can be analyzed statistically as the researcher looks for a correlation between income and health insurance. Quantitative methodology would best apply to this research problem. A quantitative approach allows the researcher to examine the relationship between the two variables of income and health insurance. The data can be used to look for cause and effect relationships and therefore, can be used to make predictions.

Another researcher is interested in exploring the reasons that people choose not to have health insurance. This researcher wants to know the various reasons why people make that choice and what the possible barriers may be when people choose not to get insurance. This is an open-ended question that will not provide results that will lend themselves to statistical analysis. Therefore, this an example where qualitative methods should be applied. Qualitative methods are used to explore the meaning of the peoples’ behavior.

The following table compares and contrasts key characteristics of qualitative and quantitative research and is useful in helping researchers evaluate their research problem.


qualitative chart.JPG

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.

Judd, C. M., McClelland, G. H., & Ryan, C. S. (2009). Data analysis: A model comparison approach . Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

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.

Quinn, G. G. P., & Keough, M. J. (2002). Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press.

Robson, C. (2002). Real world research (Vol. 2). Oxford: Blackwell publishers.

Vogt, W. P. (2006). Quantitative research methods for professionals in education and other fields. New York: Allyn & Bacon. Instrument Validation Study. 

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Quantitative Research: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch

Overview of Quantitative Research: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/1

When to Use Quantitative Methods: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/2

Writing Research Questions & Hypotheses: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/3

Variables & Operational Definitions: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/4

Variables & Operational Definitions Key Issues in Quantitative Research: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/5

Quantitative Approaches: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/6

Quantitative Scales of Measurement: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/7

Quantitative Data: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/8

Sampling Methods for Quantitative Data: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/9

Analyzing Quantitative Data: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/10

Ethics & Quantitative Research: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/11

Introduction to Quantitative Software: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/12

Extra Quantitative Research Links: https://cirt.gcu.edu/research/developmentresources/research_ready/quantresearch/13


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