What is quantitative research?
Quantitative research is defined as a systematic investigation of phenomena by gathering quantifiable data and performing statistical, mathematical, or computational techniques. Quantitative research collects information from existing and potential customers using sampling methods and sending out online surveys, online polls, questionnaires, etc., the results of which can be depicted in the form of numerical. After careful understanding of these numbers to predict the future of a product or service and make changes accordingly.
An example of quantitative research is the survey conducted to understand the amount of time a doctor takes to tend to a patient when the patient walks into the hospital. A patient satisfaction survey template can be administered to ask questions like how much time did a doctor takes to see a patient, how often does a patient walks into a hospital, and other such questions.
Quantitative outcome research is mostly conducted in the social sciences using the statistical methods used above to collect quantitative data from the research study. In this research method, researchers and statisticians deploy mathematical frameworks and theories that pertain to the quantity under question.
Quantitative research templates are objective, elaborate, and many times, even investigational. The results achieved from this research method are logical, statistical, and unbiased. Data collection happened using a structured method and conducted on larger samples that represent the entire population.
As mentioned above, quantitative research is data-oriented. There are two methods to conduct quantitative research. They are:
- Primary quantitative research methods
- Secondary quantitative research methods
Primary quantitative research methods
There are four different types of quantitative research methods:
Primary quantitative research is the most widely used method of conducting market research. The distinct feature of primary research is that the researcher focuses on collecting data directly rather than depending on data collected from previously done research. Primary quantitative research design can be broken down into three further distinctive tracks, as well as the process flow. They are:
A. Techniques and Types of Studies
There are multiple types of primary quantitative research. They can be distinguished into the four following distinctive methods, which are:
- Survey Research:
Survey Research is the most fundamental tool for all quantitative outcome research methodologies and studies. Surveys used to ask questions to a sample of respondents, using various types such as online polls, online surveys, paper questionnaires, web-intercept surveys, etc. Every small and big organization intends to understand what their customers think about their products and services, how well are new features faring in the market and other such details.
By conducting survey research, an organization can ask multiple survey questions, collect data from a pool of customers, and analyze this collected data to produce numerical results. It is the first step towards collecting data for any research.
This type of research can be conducted with a specific target audience group and also can be conducted across multiple groups along with comparative analysis. A prerequisite for this type of research is that the sample of respondents must have randomly selected members. This way, a researcher can easily maintain the accuracy of the obtained results as a huge variety of respondents will be addressed using random selection. Traditionally, survey research was conducted face-to-face or via phone calls but with the progress made by online mediums such as email or social media, survey research has spread to online mediums as well.
Traditionally, survey research was conducted face-to-face or via phone calls but with the progress made by online mediums such as email or social media, survey research has spread to online mediums as well.
There are two types of surveys, either of which can be chosen based on the time in-hand and the kind of data required:
Cross-sectional surveys: Cross-sectional surveys are observational surveys conducted in situations where the researcher intends to collect data from a sample of the target population at a given point in time. Researchers can evaluate various variables at a particular time. Data gathered using this type of survey is from people who depict similarity in all variables except the variables which are considered for research. Throughout the survey, this one variable will stay constant.
- Cross-sectional surveys are popular with retail, SMEs, healthcare industries. Information is garnered without modifying any parameters in the variable ecosystem.
- Using a cross-sectional survey research method, multiple samples can be analyzed and compared.
- Multiple variables can be evaluated using this type of survey research.
- The only disadvantage of cross-sectional surveys is that the cause-effect relationship of variables cannot be established as it usually evaluates variables at a particular time and not across a continuous time frame.
Longitudinal surveys: Longitudinal surveys are also observational surveys but, unlike cross-sectional surveys, longitudinal surveys are conducted across various time durations to observe a change in respondent behavior and thought-processes. This time can be days, months, years, or even decades. For instance, a researcher planning to analyze the change in buying habits of teenagers over 5 years will conduct longitudinal surveys.
- In cross-sectional surveys, the same variables were evaluated at a given point in time, and in longitudinal surveys, different variables can be analyzed at different intervals of time.
- Longitudinal surveys are extensively used in the field of medicine and applied sciences. Apart from these two fields, they are also used to observe a change in the market trend, analyze customer satisfaction, or gain feedback on products/services.
- In situations where the sequence of events is highly essential, longitudinal surveys are used.
- Researchers say that when there are research subjects that need to be thoroughly inspected before concluding, they rely on longitudinal surveys.
- Correlational research:
A comparison between two entities is invariable. Correlation research is conducted to establish a relationship between two closely-knit entities and how one impacts the other and what are the changes that are eventually observed. This research method is carried out to give value to naturally occurring relationships, and a minimum of two different groups are required to conduct this quantitative research method successfully. Without assuming various aspects, a relationship between two groups or entities must be established.
Researchers use this quantitative research design to correlate two or more variables using mathematical analysis methods. Patterns, relationships, and trends between variables are concluded as they exist in their original set up. The impact of one of these variables on the other is observed along with how it changes the relationship between the two variables. Researchers tend to manipulate one of the variables to attain the desired results.
Ideally, it is advised not to make conclusions merely based on correlational research. This is because it is not mandatory that if two variables are in sync that they are interrelated.
Example of Correlational Research Questions:
- The relationship between stress and depression.
The equation between fame and money.
The relation between activities in a third-grade class and its students.
- Causal-comparative research:
This research method mainly depends on the factor of comparison. Also called quasi-experimental research, this quantitative research method is used by researchers to conclude the cause-effect equation between two or more variables, where one variable is dependent on the other independent variable. The independent variable is established but not manipulated, and its impact on the dependent variable is observed. These variables or groups must be formed as they exist in the natural set up. As the dependent and independent variables will always exist in a group, it is advised that the conclusions are carefully established by keeping all the factors in mind.
Causal-comparative research is not restricted to the statistical analysis of two variables but extends to analyzing how various variables or groups change under the influence of the same changes. This research is conducted irrespective of the type of relation that exists between two or more variables. Statistical analysis is used to distinctly present the outcome obtained using this quantitative research method.
Example of Causal-Comparative Research Questions:
- The impact of drugs on a teenager.
The effect of good education on a freshman.
The effect of substantial food provision in the villages of Africa.
- Experimental research:
Also known as true experimentation, this research method is reliant on a theory. Experimental research, as the name suggests, is usually based on one or more theories. This theory has not been proven in the past and is merely a supposition. In experimental research, an analysis is done around proving or disproving the statement. This research method is used in natural sciences.Traditional research methods are more effective than modern techniques.
There can be multiple theories in experimental research. A theory is a statement that can be verified or refuted.
After establishing the statement, efforts are made to understand whether it is valid or invalid. This type of quantitative research method is mainly used in natural or social sciences as there are various statements which need to be proved right or wrong.
- Traditional research methods are more effective than modern techniques.
- Systematic teaching schedules help children who find it hard to cope up with the course.
- It is a boon to have responsible nursing staff for ailing parents.
B. Data collection methodologies
The second major step in primary quantitative research is data collection. Data collection can be divided into sampling methods and data collection with the use of surveys and polls.
Data collection methodologies: Sampling methods
There are two main sampling methods for quantitative research: Probability and Non-probability sampling.
Probability sampling: A theory of probability is used to filter individuals from a population and create samples in probability sampling. Participants of a sample are chosen random selection processes. Each member of the target audience has an equal opportunity to be selected in the sample.
There are four main types of probability sampling:
- Simple random sampling: As the name indicates, simple random sampling is nothing but a random selection of elements for a sample. This sampling technique is implemented where the target population is considerably large.
- Stratified random sampling: In the stratified random sampling method, a large population is divided into groups (strata), and members of a sample are chosen randomly from these strata. The various segregated strata should ideally not overlap one another.
- Cluster sampling: Cluster sampling is a probability sampling method using which the main segment is divided into clusters, usually using geographic and demographic segmentation parameters.
- Systematic sampling: Systematic sampling is a technique where the starting point of the sample is chosen randomly, and all the other elements are chosen using a fixed interval. This interval is calculated by dividing the population size by the target sample size.
Non-probability sampling: Non-probability sampling is where the researcher’s knowledge and experience are used to create samples. Because of the involvement of the researcher, not all the members of a target population have an equal probability of being selected to be a part of a sample.
There are five non-probability sampling models:
- Convenience sampling: In convenience sampling, elements of a sample are chosen only due to one prime reason: their proximity to the researcher. These samples are quick and easy to implement as there is no other parameter of selection involved.
- Consecutive sampling: Consecutive sampling is quite similar to convenience sampling, except for the fact that researchers can choose a single element or a group of samples and conduct research consecutively over a significant period and then perform the same process with other samples.
- Quota sampling: Using quota sampling, researchers can select elements using their knowledge of target traits and personalities to form strata. Members of various strata can then be chosen to be a part of the sample as per the researcher’s understanding.
- Snowball sampling: Snowball sampling is conducted with target audiences, which are difficult to contact and get information. It is popular in cases where the target audience for research is rare to put together.
- Judgmental sampling: Judgmental sampling is a non-probability sampling method where samples are created only based on the researcher’s experience and skill.
Data collection methodologies: Using surveys & polls
Once the sample is determined, then either surveys or polls can be distributed to collect the data for quantitative research.
- Using surveys for primary quantitative research
A Survey is defined as a research method used for collecting data from a pre-defined group of respondents to gain information and insights on various topics of interest. The ease of survey distribution and the wide number of people it can be reached depending on the research time and research objective make it one of the most important aspects of conducting quantitative outcome research.
Fundamental levels of measurement – nominal, ordinal, interval and ratio scales
There are four measurement scales that are fundamental to creating a multiple-choice question in a survey. They are nominal, ordinal, interval, and ratio measurement scales without the fundamentals of which, no multiple-choice questions can be created. Hence, it is crucial to understand these levels of measurement to be able to develop a robust survey.
Use of different question types
To conduct quantitative research, close-ended questions have to be used in a survey. They can be a mix of multiple question types including multiple-choice questions like semantic differential scale questions, rating scale questions, etc.
Survey Distribution and Survey Data Collection
In the above, we have seen the process of building a survey along with the survey design to conduct primary quantitative research. Survey distribution to collect data is the other important aspect of the survey process. There are different ways of survey distribution. Some of the most commonly used methods are:
- Email: Sending a survey via email is the most widely used and most effective method of survey distribution. The response rate is high in this method because the respondents are aware of your brand. You can use the QuestionPro email management feature to send out and collect survey responses.
- Buy respondents: Another effective way to distribute a survey and conduct primary quantitative research is to use a sample. Since the respondents are knowledgeable and are on the panel by their own will, responses are much higher.
- Embed survey on a website: Embedding a survey in a website increases a high number of responses as the respondent is already in close proximity to the brand when the survey pops up.
- Social distribution: Using social media to distribute the survey aids in collecting a higher number of responses from the people that are aware of the brand.
- QR code: QuestionPro QR codes store the URL for the survey. You can print/publish this code in magazines, on signs, business cards, or on just about any object/medium.
- SMS survey: A quick and time-effective way of conducting a survey to collect a high number of responses is the SMS survey.
- QuestionPro app: The QuestionPro App allows users to circulate surveys quickly, and the responses can be collected both online and offline.
An example of a survey is short customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey template that can quickly be built and deployed to collect feedback about what the customer thinks about a brand and how satisfied and referenceable the brand is.
- Using polls for primary quantitative research
Polls are a method to collect feedback with the use of close-ended questions from a sample. The most commonly used types of polls are election polls and exit polls. Both of these are used to collect data from a large sample size but using basic question types like a multiple-choice question.
C. Data analysis techniques
The third aspect of primary quantitative research design is data analysis. After the collection of raw data, there has to be an analysis of this data to derive statistical inferences from this research. It is important to relate the results to the objective of research and establish the statistical relevance of results.
It is important to consider aspects of research which were not considered for the data collection process and report the difference between what was planned vs. what was actually executed.
It is then required to select precise statistical analysis methods such as SWOT, Conjoint, Cross-tabulation, etc. to analyze the quantitative data.
- SWOT analysis: SWOT Analysis stands for the acronym of Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threat analysis. Organizations use this statistical analysis technique to evaluate their performance internally and externally to develop effective strategies for improvement.
- Conjoint Analysis: Conjoint Analysis is a market analysis method to learn how individuals make complicated purchasing decisions. Trade-offs are involved in the daily activities of an individual, and these reflect their ability to decide from a complex list of product/service options.
- Cross-tabulation: Cross-tabulation is one of the preliminary statistical market analysis methods which establishes relationships, patterns, and trends within the various parameters of the research study.
- TURF Analysis: TURF Analysis, an acronym for Totally Unduplicated Reach and Frequency Analysis, is executed in situations where the reach of a favorable communication source is to be analyzed along with the frequency of this communication. It is used for understanding the potential of a target market.
Inferential statistics methods such as confidence interval, margin of error, etc. can then be used to provide results.
Secondary quantitative research methods
Secondary quantitative research or desk research is a research method that involves using already existing data or secondary data. Existing data is summarized and collated to increase the overall effectiveness of research.
This research method involves the collection of quantitative data from existing data sources like the internet, government resources, libraries, research reports, etc. Secondary quantitative research helps to validate the data that is collected from primary quantitative research as well as aid in strengthening or proving or disproving previously collected data.
Following are five popularly used secondary quantitative research methods:
- Data available on the internet: With the high penetration of internet and mobile devices, it has become increasingly easy to conduct quantitative research using the internet. Information about most research topics is available online, and this aids in boosting the validity of primary quantitative data as well as proving the relevance of previously collected data.
- Government and non-government sources: Secondary quantitative research can also be conducted with the help of government and non-government sources that deal with market research reports. This data is highly reliable and in-depth and hence, can be used to increase the validity of quantitative research design.
- Public libraries: Now a sparingly used method of conducting quantitative research, it is still a reliable source of information though. Public libraries have copies of important research that were conducted earlier. They are a storehouse of valuable information and documents from which information can be extracted.
- Educational institutions: Educational institutions conduct in-depth research on multiple topics, and hence, the reports that they publish are an important source of validation in quantitative research.
- Commercial information sources: Local newspapers, journals, magazines, radio, and TV stations are a great source to obtain data for secondary quantitative research. These commercial information sources have in-depth, first-hand information on economic developments, political agenda, market research, demographic segmentation, and similar subjects.
Quantitative research characteristics
Some distinctive characteristics of quantitative research are:
- Structured tools: Structured tools such as surveys, polls, or questionnaires are used to gather quantitative data. Using such structure methods helps in collecting in-depth and actionable data from the survey respondents.
- Sample size: Quantitative research is conducted on a significant sample size that represents the target market. Appropriate sampling methods have to be used when deriving the sample to fortify the research objective
- Close-ended questions: Closed-ended questions are created per the objective of the research. These questions help collect quantitative data and hence, are extensively used in quantitative research.
- Prior studies: Various factors related to the research topic are studied before collecting feedback from respondents.
- Quantitative data: Usually, quantitative data is represented by tables, charts, graphs, or any other non-numerical form. This makes it easy to understand the data that has been collected as well as prove the validity of the market research.
- Generalization of results: Results of this research method can be generalized to an entire population to take appropriate actions for improvement.
Quantitative research examples
Some examples of quantitative research are:
- If any organization would like to conduct a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey, a customer satisfaction survey template can be used. Through this survey, an organization can collect quantitative data and metrics on the goodwill of the brand or organization in the mind of the customer based on multiple parameters such as product quality, pricing, customer experience, etc. This data can be collected by asking a net promoter score (NPS) question, matrix table questions, etc. that provide data in the form of numbers that can be analyzed and worked upon.
- Another example of quantitative research is an organization that conducts an event, collecting feedback from the event attendees about the value that they see from the event. By using an event survey template, the organization can collect actionable feedback about satisfaction levels of customers during various phases of the event such as the sales, pre and post-event, the likelihood of recommending the organization to their friends and colleagues, hotel preferences for the future events and other such questions.
Advantages of quantitative research
There are many advantages of quantitative research. Some of the major advantages of why researchers use this method in market research are:
- Collect reliable and accurate data: As data is collected, analyzed, and presented in numbers, the results obtained will be extremely reliable. Numbers do not lie. They offer an honest picture of the conducted research without discrepancies and is also extremely accurate. In situations where a researcher predicts conflict, quantitative research is conducted.
- Quick data collection: A quantitative research is carried out with a group of respondents who represent a population. A survey or any other quantitative research method applied to these respondents and the involvement of statistics, conducting, and analyzing results is quite straightforward and less time-consuming.
- Wider scope of data analysis: Due to the statistics, this research method provides a wide scope of data collection.
- Eliminate bias: This research method offers no scope for personal comments or biasing of results. The results achieved are numerical and are thus, fair in most cases.
Best practices to conduct quantitative research
Here are some best practices to conduct quantitative research
- Differentiate between quantitative and qualitative: Understand the difference between the two methodologies and apply the one that suits your needs best.
- Choose a suitable sample size: Ensure that you have a sample representative of your population and large enough to be statistically weighty.
- Keep your research goals clear and concise: Know your research goals before you begin data collection to ensure you collect the right amount and the right quantity of data.
- Keep the questions simple: Remember that you will be reaching out to a demographically wide audience. Pose simple questions for your respondents to understand easily.