Quantitative Research Methods: Meaning and Characteristics

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

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

When to Use Quantitative or Qualitative Research

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

Read More: Qualitative Study Design: A Comprehensive Guide

Recently, many researchers use both methods, thereby the era of using mixed methods in research arose as a more desirable and encompassing approach to 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 research methods?

Quantitative research methods are those research methods that use numbers as its basis for making generalizations about a phenomenon. It emphasizes numerical data analysis using computational techniques like multiple regression analysis to analyze the relationship between multiple factors like age, sex, educational attainment, and academic performance.

The numbers used in statistical analysis 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 after a thorough discussion has been made.

Read more: How to write the results and discussion

7 Characteristics of Quantitative Research Methods

Seven characteristics discriminate qualitative methods of research from qualitative ones. I enumerate the characteristics of quantitative research methods in the following list.

1. Contain Measurable Variables

Data gathering instruments contain items that solicit measurable characteristics of the population. These measurable characteristics are referred to as the variables of the study, such as age, the number of children, educational status, and economic status.

quantitative research methods
Quantitative research method use measuring devices like the caliper.

2. Use Standardized Research Instruments

The data collection instruments include questionnaires, polls, or surveys. Standardized, pre-tested instruments guide data collection, thus ensuring the accuracy, reliability and validity of data. Pre-testing helps identify areas in the research instruments that need revisions. It makes sure that respondents provide the expected answers or satisfy the intent of the researcher to meet the research objectives.

3. Assume a Normal Population Distribution

For more reliable data analysis of quantitative data, 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 bias in interpreting the results that defeat the purpose of the research.

4. Present Data in Tables, Graphs, or Figures

The data obtained using quantitative methods are organized using tables, graphs, or figures that merge large numbers of data to show trends, relationships, or differences among variables. This fosters understanding of the readers or clients of the research investigation.

5. Use Repeatable Method

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. Can Predict Outcomes

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 digital computers or computer-controlled robots commonly referred to as artificial intelligence or AI.

Read More: How to Write an Article with AI: A Quick Guide

7. Use Measuring Devices

Advanced digital or electronic instruments are used to measure or gather quantitative data from the field. The instruments ensure an objective and accurate collection of data provided that these are calibrated. Calibration means that the instruments used by the researcher matches the measurements of a reference instrument that is considered a standard.

The characteristics of quantitative research methods listed in this article make this research approach popular among researchers. Using qualitative research methods, however, is appropriate on issues or problems that need not require quantification or exploratory in nature.


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

© 2015 January 3 P. A. Regoniel
updated: 2020 October 26


  1. Tebogo Makolobe September 22, 2023