Quantitative Research Techniques (1/2)

Quantitative Research Techniques (1/2)

In this lesson, you’re expected to:
– understand the main characteristics of quantitative research
– learn when you should use quantitative research
– discover the advantages and limitations of quantitative techniques


Quantitative methods emphasize objective measurements and the statistical, mathematical, or numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires, and surveys, or by manipulating pre-existing statistical data using computational techniques. Quantitative research focuses on gathering numerical data and generalizing it across groups of people or to explain a particular phenomenon. *

Quantitative research methods describe and measure the level of occurrences on the basis of numbers and calculations. Moreover, the questions of “how many?” and “how often?” are often asked in quantitative studies.

* Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010; Muijs, Daniel. Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. 2nd edition. London: SAGE Publications, 2010.
Characteristics of Quantitative Research

Your goal in conducting a quantitative research study is to determine the relationship between one thing [an independent variable] and another [a dependent variable] within a population.

Quantitative research designs are either descriptive (subjects usually measured once) or experimental (subjects measured before and after a treatment).

A descriptive study establishes only associations between variables while an experimental study establishes causality.

Quantitative research deals in numbers, logic, and an objective stance. It focuses on numeric and unchanging data and detailed, convergent reasoning rather than divergent reasoning (i.e., the generation of a variety of ideas about a research problem in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner).

Its main characteristics are:

• The data is usually gathered using structured research instruments.
• The results are based on larger sample sizes that are representative of the population.
• The research study can usually be replicated or repeated, given its high reliability.
• Researcher has a clearly defined research question to which objective answers are sought.
• Data are in the form of numbers and statistics, often arranged in tables, charts, figures, or other non-textual forms.
• It can be used to generalize concepts more widely, predict future results, or investigate causal relationships.
• Researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or computer software, to collect numerical data.

The overarching aim of a quantitative research study is to classify features, count them, and construct statistical models in an attempt to explain what is observed.

Why should you use Quantitative Methods?

Quantitative researchers try to recognize and isolate specific variables contained within the study framework, seek correlation, relationships and causality, and attempt to control the environment in which the data is collected to avoid the risk of variables, other than the one being studied, accounting for the relationships identified.

Advantages of Using Quantitative Methods

• Allows for a broader study, involving a greater number of subjects, and enhancing the generalization of the results;

• Allows for greater objectivity and accuracy of results.

• The research can be replicated, and then analyzed and compared with similar studies – ensures validity and reliability;

• You can summarize vast sources of information and make comparisons across categories and over time;

• Personal bias can be avoided by keeping a ‘distance’ from participating subjects.

Limitations of Using Quantitative Methods

• The data is more efficient but may miss contextual detail;

• Uses a static and rigid approach and so employs an inflexible process of discovery;

• The development of standard questions by researchers can lead to “structural bias” and false representation, where the data actually reflects the view of the researcher;

• Results provide less detail on behavior, attitudes, and motivation;

• Researcher may sometimes collect asuperficial dataset;

• The research is often carried out in an artificial environment so that a level of control can be applied (thus yielding “laboratory results” as opposed to “real world results”).

What is a Panel?

A panel is a long-standing sample that is retained by a market research agency from which data can be attained. It is most useful for continuous research whereby the same set of respondents are used on a continuous basis over time.
Market research panels are comprised of people meeting certain demographic criterion. They are commonly used for obtaining business information about product sales and are sometimes mistakenly referred to as focus groups. 

There are two forms, one for the consumer market, and the other for collecting business-to-business (B2B) purchasing information.

Consumer market research panels are most recognized and known to the public, as many people may have been asked to participate in some manner at some time in their lives.

(1) Consumer Panels

Consumer panels are groups of consumers in specific sectors, recruited by research companies and agencies, who are used as respondents to answer specific research questions relating to product testing, taste testing, ad testing or other areas.

Most often, they are a specialist panel who take part in numerous projects. Consumer panels are particularly useful for short, quick surveys, where the emphasis is on a sample of those with specialist knowledge rather than a representative sample of the general population.

(2) Business Panels

These panels are more specifically oriented towards the world of business. There would be more questions or discussions about competition, government legislation, the market, the impact of the economy, and other factors that are related to that type of business.

The business panels may be more specialized toward specific markets. Some market research firms have these specialized panels available on a regular basis, rather then creating them from scratch every time they are needed, and they may have many different types of specialized panels available to the business community.

Types of Panels

(1) Survey Panels: Survey panels are an easy way for a company to know exactly when, how and what a certain segment of the population is buying or thinking.

This type of market research panel is often a group or groups of people who fit a particular demographic spectrum of the population and are willing to participate in surveys.

(2) Online Panels: Using an online research panel gives businesses an efficient method of gathering data and feedback from a regular group of participants. It gives companies the ability to make consumer research easier, more productive and it is more affordable than traditional research.

Although some panelists are recruited directly through the inquiring company’s own website or customer list, the participants of other research panels are generally recruited through e-mail, phone and sometimes in person. 

For more information about panels, visit this link:
How is a Panel created?

Market research panels are comprised of pre-recruited groups of people who have agreed to participate, so although the selection method to approach these people may be random, the group is not random in that they are all chosen from the group of people who want to do this task.

Panels can be chosen from a target audience segment, current customers, potential customers, or any other particular group the originator of the study wants to include.

Members generally are given some type of incentive reward for their participation, which could be cash or a gift.

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