Quantitative research is a set of methods for collecting and interpreting data that is used to study natural phenomena empirically. It is based mainly on statistics and mathematics, using these tools and similar ones to create hypotheses and theoretical models about what is being investigated. What is quantitative research definition?
Quantitative research differs from qualitative research in that in the former the focus is on discovering general principles about the field of study, rather than understanding in depth the nature of a single element. In this way, quantitative research tends to be more focused on groups than on specific subjects.
This type of research is widely used in fields as different as psychology, economics, sociology, marketing, health or demography. On the other hand, investigations of the pure sciences such as physics or mathematics are also considered quantitative by some experts, although their characteristics are slightly different.
When it comes to understanding how quantitative research works, the most important thing is to understand that it relies on statistics to formulate general hypotheses based on particular cases. For example, studying a very large group of people can make predictions about the behavior of a particular individual. What is quantitative research definition?
Characteristics of quantitative research
– Generation of models, hypotheses and theories
The main objective of quantitative research is to analyze large amounts of data in order to build models and theories from them. In this way, each specific case is used as one more piece on the way to develop statistical knowledge, instead of being the central process of the investigation as occurs in the qualitative one.
Models and hypotheses are generated in quantitative research through the use of statistics. Thus, for example, if a behavior were repeated 70% of the time by the individuals studied in a specific situation, it could be considered that it is very likely that a person acted in that way and it would be feasible to make predictions about it.
– Use objective measurement methods
In qualitative research, measurement methods are usually open and are intended to understand as deeply as possible the phenomenon to be studied. On the other hand, in the quantitative, the important thing is to obtain as much data as possible about a very specific aspect, so the measurements are carried out in a completely different way. What is quantitative research definition?
Generally in quantitative research tools such as standardized tests, structured interviews, and even experimental methods with variable control are used to collect as much objective data as possible.
– Use of experimental designs
Quantitative research usually tries to look for cause and effect relationships between different variables, with the aim of being able to create theories that are applicable to broad contexts and that do not depend on specific factors. Because of this, it usually makes use of complex experimental designs in which different variables are manipulated to check the results.
Thus, within quantitative research we find models such as experimental or quasi – experimental, in which the expert controls some of the variables that may influence the result.
– Analysis of data
Quantitative research typically works with relatively large amounts of data. Due to this, it is practically essential to use methods such as statistical analysis, regressions or even big data techniques to be able to draw reliable conclusions and discover patterns and relationships between the variables that have been studied. What is quantitative research definition?
For this reason, for a quantitative investigation to be considered reliable it is necessary that it work with a relatively high number of cases. This is the opposite of what happens in qualitative research, in which the expert focuses on understanding a single phenomenon in depth.
Techniques and instruments in quantitative research
There are many different classifications that try to group all the types of quantitative research that we can find. One of the most common is the one that divides them into four classes: surveys, correlational studies, causal investigations, and experiments. Next we will see what each one of them consists of.
Surveys are the most basic tools that can be used to carry out quantitative studies. Its main objective is to ask questions to a more or less large number of participants, with the aim of understanding which are the most common answers at a statistical level within a given population.
Surveys were traditionally conducted in person or by telephone. Nowadays, however, they can also be carried out using new technologies. Thus, many researchers use the Internet to create surveys of all kinds and learn more about the needs of the market or its behavior.
Within the world of surveys there are many alternatives. Some of them are used only with a specific audience, while others compare different groups using statistical analysis. What is quantitative research definition?
Correlational studies are those that have the objective of establishing relationships between two phenomena or entities. The idea is to understand how they vary, even if you cannot make inferences about the cause and effect relationships that exist between them.
Correlational studies are largely based on statistics and mathematical analysis. These tools are used to discover trends, patterns, and relationships. However, it is usually advisable not to draw conclusions based solely on these types of studies.
This research method is also known as quasi-experimental. It is mainly used to study causal relationships between two variables, where one is dependent on the other. However, the difference between this method and similar ones is that in causal investigations the dependent variable is not manipulated, only observed.
Quasi-experimental investigations can be carried out with more than two variables, provided that at least one of them is considered the independent one; that is, that their changes influence the others present in the study. As in the previous case, the results and conclusions are derived from performing a statistical analysis. What is quantitative research definition?
The experimental research is based on the manipulation of an independent variable to observe its effect on other dependents, while all the environmental factors that might influence the results are controlled.
As a rule, experiments have to be based on an assumption or theory that has not yet been proven. The idea of this type of research is precisely to collect data that allow to draw conclusions about it.
On the other hand, experimental investigations are the only quantitative methods that can be used to draw causal conclusions about a phenomenon. Therefore, whenever you want to fully understand what you are investigating, it is preferable to use this system.
Recent real examples of quantitative research
– Study on OkCupid users
OkCupid is one of the most famous online dating platforms in the world, with millions of users distributed in many countries. In May 2016, its creators published a study in which they presented the conclusions they had drawn after analyzing the behavior of 70,000 of their users.
In this study, all kinds of patterns were revealed in terms of behavior within the platform, preferences, and differences by age, sex or sexual orientation. All conclusions were made using statistical analysis, so this is a good example of quantitative research. What is quantitative research definition?
– Effects of mindfulness on pain
A 2020 study on the effects of mindfulness found that the use of this technique has a very significant impact on our experience. To try to find his limits, he tried to test the effectiveness of this method to control physical pain.
In the study, the participants were divided into two groups. Those belonging to the first learned basic mindfulness techniques , while those in the second did not. This is what is known as a control group design.
After this introduction to mindfulness , a brief contact with a high-temperature material was applied to the participants’ arms, and later a questionnaire was given to them in which they had to answer various questions about their experience of pain. The result was that participants who had used mindfulness had less pain than those who had not. What is quantitative research definition?