Quantitative Methods: Meaning and Characteristics

What are quantitative methods of research? What is its definition, when are these methods used and what are its characteristics?

This article defines quantitative methods and lists seven characteristics that discriminate these research methods from qualitative research approaches.

The methods used by researchers may either be quantitative or qualitative. The decision to select the method largely depends on the researcher’s judgment as well as the nature of the research topic. Some research topics are better studied using quantitative methods while others are more appropriately explored using qualitative methods.

Recently, many researchers use both methods, thereby the era of using mixed methods in research arose as a more desirable and encompassing approach in understanding phenomena. Qualitative methods may be used to explore a phenomenon and identify factors for a quantitative study. Or, a quantitative study may identify research areas that require the application of qualitative methods to provide an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon at hand or when the use of quantitative methods is insufficient to answer questions that relate to human behavior such as feelings, values, and beliefs.

J. Pizarro has already described qualitative research in this site, so this article focuses on quantitative methods, its meaning and characteristics.

What are quantitative methods?

Quantitative methods are those research methods that use numbers as its basis for making generalizations about a phenomenon. These numbers originate from objective scales of measurement of the units of analysis called variables. Four types of measurement scale exist namely nominal, ordinal, ratio, and interval (see 4 Statistical Scales of Measurement).

The data that will serve as the basis for explaining a phenomenon, therefore, can be gathered through surveys. Such surveys use instruments that require numerical inputs or direct measurements of parameters that characterize the subject of investigation (e.g. pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity, turbidity, and conductivity to measure water quality). These numbers will then be analyzed using the appropriate statistical application software to unravel significant relationships or differences between variables. The output serves as the basis for making the conclusions and generalizations of the study.

7 Characteristics of Quantitative Methods

Seven characteristics discriminate qualitative methods of research from qualitative ones.

  1. Data gathering instruments contain items that solicit measurable characteristics of the population (e.g. age, the number of children, educational status, economic status).
  2. Standardized, pre-tested instruments guide data collection thus ensuring the accuracy, reliability and validity of data.
  3. For more reliable data analysis, a normal population distribution curve is preferred over a non-normal distribution. This requires a large population, the numbers of which depend on how the characteristics of the population vary. This requires adherence to the principle of random sampling to avoid researcher’s bias in interpreting the results that defeat the purpose of research.
  4. The data obtained using quantitative methods are organized using tables, graphs, or figures that consolidate large numbers of data to show trends, relationships, or differences among variables. This fosters understanding to the readers or clients of the research investigation.
  5. Researchers can repeat the quantitative method to verify or confirm the findings in another setting. This reinforces the validity of groundbreaking discoveries or findings thus eliminating the possibility of spurious or erroneous conclusions.
  6. Quantitative models or formula derived from data analysis can predict outcomes. If-then scenarios can be constructed using complex mathematical computations with the aid of computers.
  7. Advanced digital or electronic instruments are used to measure or gather data from the field.

Reference

University of Southern California (2015). Quantitative methods. Retrieved on 3 January, 2015 from http://goo.gl/GMiwt

© 2015 January 3 P. A. Regoniel

14 thoughts on “Quantitative Methods: Meaning and Characteristics”

  1. Wished I have seen your article before. I’m doing my undergrad thesis right now and I’m struggling on what are the important aspects should be considered in writing a thesis especially this quantitative method. This is indeed what I’m looking for. Though I’m a little late. Great explanation! Thank you very much!

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