Essay on Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Both qualitative and quantitative researches are valued in the research world and are often used together under a single project. This is despite the fact that they have significant differences in terms of their theoretical, epistemological, and methodological formations. Qualitative research is usually in form of words while quantitative research takes the numerical approach. This paper discusses the similarities, differences, advantages, and disadvantages of qualitative and quantitative research and provides a personal stand.


Both qualitative and quantitative research approaches begin with a problem on which scholars seek to find answers. Without a research problem or question, there would be no reason for carrying out the study. Once a problem is formulated, researchers at their own discretion and depending on the nature of the question choose the appropriate type of research to employ. Just like in qualitative research, data obtained from quantitative analysis need to be analyzed (Miles & Huberman, 1994). This step is crucial for helping researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the issue under investigation. The findings of any research enjoy confirmability after undergoing a thorough examination and auditing process (Miles & Huberman, 1994).

Both types of research approaches require a concise plan before they are carried out. Once researchers formulate the study question, they must come up with a plan for investigating the matter (Yilmaz, 2013). Such plans include deciding the appropriate research technique to implement, estimating budgets, and deciding on the study areas. Failure to plan before embarking on the research project may compromise the research findings. In addition, both qualitative and quantitative research are dependent on each other and can be used for a single research project (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Quantitative data helps the qualitative research in finding a representative study sample and obtaining the background data. In the same way, qualitative research provides the quantitative side with the conceptual development and instrumentation (Miles & Huberman, 1994).


Qualitative research seeks to explain why things are the way they seem to be. It provides well-grounded descriptions and explanations of processes in identifiable local contexts (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Researchers use qualitative research to dig deeper into the problem and develop a relevant hypothesis for potential quantitative research. On the other hand, Quantitative research uses numerical data to state and quantify the problem (Yilmaz, 2013). Researchers in quantitative research use measurable data in formulating facts and uncovering the research pattern.

Quantitative research approach involves a larger number of participants for the purpose of gathering as much information as possible to summarize characteristics across large groups. This makes it a very expensive research approach. On the contrary, qualitative research approach describes a phenomenon in a more comprehensive manner. A relatively small number of participants take part in this type of research. This makes the overall process cheaper and time friendly.

Data collection methods differ significantly in the two research approaches. In quantitative research, scholars use surveys, questionnaires, and systematic measurements that involve numbers (Yilmaz, 2013). Moreover, they report their findings in impersonal third person prose by using numbers. This is different from the qualitative approach where only the participants’ observation and deep document analysis is necessary for conclusions to be drawn. Findings are disseminated in the first person’s narrative with sufficient quotations from the participants.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

Qualitative data is based on human observations. Respondent’s observations connect the researcher to the most basic human experiences (Rahman, 2016). It gives a detailed production of participants’ opinions and feelings and helps in efficient interpretation of their actions (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Moreover, this research approach is interdisciplinary and entails a wide range of research techniques and epistemological viewpoints. Data collection methods in qualitative approach are both detailed and subjective (Rahman, 2016). Direct observations, unstructured interviews, and participant observation are the most common techniques employed in this type of research. Researchers have the opportunity to mingle directly with the respondents and obtain first-hand information.

On the negative side, the smaller population sample used in qualitative research raises credibility concerns (Rahman, 2016). The views of a small group of respondents may not necessarily reflect those of the entire population. Moreover, conducting this type of research on certain aspects such as the performance of students may be more challenging. In such instances, researchers prefer to use the quantitative approach instead (Rahman, 2016). Data analysis and interpretation in qualitative research is a more complex process. It is long, has elusive data, and has very stringent requirements for analysis (Rahman, 2016). In addition, developing a research question in this approach is a challenging task as the refining question mostly becomes continuous throughout the research process.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Quantitative Research

The findings of a quantitative research can be generalized to a whole population as it involves larger samples that are randomly selected by researchers (Rahman, 2016). Moreover, the methods used allows for use of statistical software in test taking (Rahman, 2016). This makes the approach time effective and efficient for tackling complex research questions. Quantitative research allows for objectivity and accuracy of the study results. This approach is well designed to provide essential information that supports generalization of a phenomenon under study. It involves few variables and many cases that guarantee the validity and credibility of the study results.

This research approach, however, has some limitations. There is a limited direct connection between the researcher and respondents. Scholars who adopt this approach measure variables at specific moments in time and disregards the past experiences of the respondents (Rahman, 2016). As a result, deep information is often ignored and only the overall picture of the variables is represented. The quantitative approach uses standard questions set and administered by researchers (Rahman, 2016). This might lead to structural bias by respondents and false representation. In some instances, data may only reflect the views of the sample under study instead of revealing the real situation. Moreover, preset questions and answers limit the freedom of expression by the respondents.

Preferred Method

I would prefer quantitative research method over the qualitative approach. Data management in this technique is much familiar and more accessible to researchers’ contexts (Miles & Huberman, 1994). It is a more scientific process that involves the collection, analysis, and interpretation of large amounts of data. Researchers have more control of the manner in which data is collected. Unlike qualitative data that requires descriptions, quantitative approach majors on numerical data (Yilmaz, 2013). With this type of data, I can use the various available software for classification and analyzes. Moreover, researchers are more flexible and free to interact with respondents. This gives an opportunity for obtaining first-hand information and learning more about other behavioral aspects of the population under study.

As highlighted above, qualitative and quantitative techniques are the two research approaches. Both seek to dig deeper into a particular problem, analyze the responses of a selected sample and make viable conclusions. However, qualitative research is much concerned with the description of peoples’ opinions, motivations, and reasons for a particular phenomenon. On the other hand, Quantitative research uses numerical data to state and explain research findings. Use of numerical data allows for objectivity and accuracy of the research results. However structural biases are common in this approach. Data collection and sampling in qualitative research is more detailed and subjective. Considering the different advantages and disadvantages of the two research approaches, I would go for the quantitative over qualitative research.

Miles, M., & Huberman, A. (1994).  Qualitative data analysis  (2nd Ed.). Beverly Hills: Sage.

Rahman, M. (2016). The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches and Methods in Language “Testing and Assessment” Research: A Literature Review.  Journal of Education and Learning , 6(1), 102.

Yilmaz, K. (2013). Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative Research Traditions: epistemological, theoretical, and methodological differences.  European Journal of Education , 48(2), 311-325.

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A Practical Guide to Writing Quantitative and Qualitative Research Questions and Hypotheses in Scholarly Articles

Edward barroga.

1 Department of General Education, Graduate School of Nursing Science, St. Luke’s International University, Tokyo, Japan.

Glafera Janet Matanguihan

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Messiah University, Mechanicsburg, PA, USA.

The development of research questions and the subsequent hypotheses are prerequisites to defining the main research purpose and specific objectives of a study. Consequently, these objectives determine the study design and research outcome. The development of research questions is a process based on knowledge of current trends, cutting-edge studies, and technological advances in the research field. Excellent research questions are focused and require a comprehensive literature search and in-depth understanding of the problem being investigated. Initially, research questions may be written as descriptive questions which could be developed into inferential questions. These questions must be specific and concise to provide a clear foundation for developing hypotheses. Hypotheses are more formal predictions about the research outcomes. These specify the possible results that may or may not be expected regarding the relationship between groups. Thus, research questions and hypotheses clarify the main purpose and specific objectives of the study, which in turn dictate the design of the study, its direction, and outcome. Studies developed from good research questions and hypotheses will have trustworthy outcomes with wide-ranging social and health implications.


Scientific research is usually initiated by posing evidenced-based research questions which are then explicitly restated as hypotheses. 1 , 2 The hypotheses provide directions to guide the study, solutions, explanations, and expected results. 3 , 4 Both research questions and hypotheses are essentially formulated based on conventional theories and real-world processes, which allow the inception of novel studies and the ethical testing of ideas. 5 , 6

It is crucial to have knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research 2 as both types of research involve writing research questions and hypotheses. 7 However, these crucial elements of research are sometimes overlooked; if not overlooked, then framed without the forethought and meticulous attention it needs. Planning and careful consideration are needed when developing quantitative or qualitative research, particularly when conceptualizing research questions and hypotheses. 4

There is a continuing need to support researchers in the creation of innovative research questions and hypotheses, as well as for journal articles that carefully review these elements. 1 When research questions and hypotheses are not carefully thought of, unethical studies and poor outcomes usually ensue. Carefully formulated research questions and hypotheses define well-founded objectives, which in turn determine the appropriate design, course, and outcome of the study. This article then aims to discuss in detail the various aspects of crafting research questions and hypotheses, with the goal of guiding researchers as they develop their own. Examples from the authors and peer-reviewed scientific articles in the healthcare field are provided to illustrate key points.


A research question is what a study aims to answer after data analysis and interpretation. The answer is written in length in the discussion section of the paper. Thus, the research question gives a preview of the different parts and variables of the study meant to address the problem posed in the research question. 1 An excellent research question clarifies the research writing while facilitating understanding of the research topic, objective, scope, and limitations of the study. 5

On the other hand, a research hypothesis is an educated statement of an expected outcome. This statement is based on background research and current knowledge. 8 , 9 The research hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a new phenomenon 10 or a formal statement on the expected relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable. 3 , 11 It provides a tentative answer to the research question to be tested or explored. 4

Hypotheses employ reasoning to predict a theory-based outcome. 10 These can also be developed from theories by focusing on components of theories that have not yet been observed. 10 The validity of hypotheses is often based on the testability of the prediction made in a reproducible experiment. 8

Conversely, hypotheses can also be rephrased as research questions. Several hypotheses based on existing theories and knowledge may be needed to answer a research question. Developing ethical research questions and hypotheses creates a research design that has logical relationships among variables. These relationships serve as a solid foundation for the conduct of the study. 4 , 11 Haphazardly constructed research questions can result in poorly formulated hypotheses and improper study designs, leading to unreliable results. Thus, the formulations of relevant research questions and verifiable hypotheses are crucial when beginning research. 12


Excellent research questions are specific and focused. These integrate collective data and observations to confirm or refute the subsequent hypotheses. Well-constructed hypotheses are based on previous reports and verify the research context. These are realistic, in-depth, sufficiently complex, and reproducible. More importantly, these hypotheses can be addressed and tested. 13

There are several characteristics of well-developed hypotheses. Good hypotheses are 1) empirically testable 7 , 10 , 11 , 13 ; 2) backed by preliminary evidence 9 ; 3) testable by ethical research 7 , 9 ; 4) based on original ideas 9 ; 5) have evidenced-based logical reasoning 10 ; and 6) can be predicted. 11 Good hypotheses can infer ethical and positive implications, indicating the presence of a relationship or effect relevant to the research theme. 7 , 11 These are initially developed from a general theory and branch into specific hypotheses by deductive reasoning. In the absence of a theory to base the hypotheses, inductive reasoning based on specific observations or findings form more general hypotheses. 10


Research questions and hypotheses are developed according to the type of research, which can be broadly classified into quantitative and qualitative research. We provide a summary of the types of research questions and hypotheses under quantitative and qualitative research categories in Table 1 .

Quantitative research questionsQuantitative research hypotheses
Descriptive research questionsSimple hypothesis
Comparative research questionsComplex hypothesis
Relationship research questionsDirectional hypothesis
Non-directional hypothesis
Associative hypothesis
Causal hypothesis
Null hypothesis
Alternative hypothesis
Working hypothesis
Statistical hypothesis
Logical hypothesis
Qualitative research questionsQualitative research hypotheses
Contextual research questionsHypothesis-generating
Descriptive research questions
Evaluation research questions
Explanatory research questions
Exploratory research questions
Generative research questions
Ideological research questions
Ethnographic research questions
Phenomenological research questions
Grounded theory questions
Qualitative case study questions

Research questions in quantitative research

In quantitative research, research questions inquire about the relationships among variables being investigated and are usually framed at the start of the study. These are precise and typically linked to the subject population, dependent and independent variables, and research design. 1 Research questions may also attempt to describe the behavior of a population in relation to one or more variables, or describe the characteristics of variables to be measured ( descriptive research questions ). 1 , 5 , 14 These questions may also aim to discover differences between groups within the context of an outcome variable ( comparative research questions ), 1 , 5 , 14 or elucidate trends and interactions among variables ( relationship research questions ). 1 , 5 We provide examples of descriptive, comparative, and relationship research questions in quantitative research in Table 2 .

Quantitative research questions
Descriptive research question
- Measures responses of subjects to variables
- Presents variables to measure, analyze, or assess
What is the proportion of resident doctors in the hospital who have mastered ultrasonography (response of subjects to a variable) as a diagnostic technique in their clinical training?
Comparative research question
- Clarifies difference between one group with outcome variable and another group without outcome variable
Is there a difference in the reduction of lung metastasis in osteosarcoma patients who received the vitamin D adjunctive therapy (group with outcome variable) compared with osteosarcoma patients who did not receive the vitamin D adjunctive therapy (group without outcome variable)?
- Compares the effects of variables
How does the vitamin D analogue 22-Oxacalcitriol (variable 1) mimic the antiproliferative activity of 1,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D (variable 2) in osteosarcoma cells?
Relationship research question
- Defines trends, association, relationships, or interactions between dependent variable and independent variable
Is there a relationship between the number of medical student suicide (dependent variable) and the level of medical student stress (independent variable) in Japan during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Hypotheses in quantitative research

In quantitative research, hypotheses predict the expected relationships among variables. 15 Relationships among variables that can be predicted include 1) between a single dependent variable and a single independent variable ( simple hypothesis ) or 2) between two or more independent and dependent variables ( complex hypothesis ). 4 , 11 Hypotheses may also specify the expected direction to be followed and imply an intellectual commitment to a particular outcome ( directional hypothesis ) 4 . On the other hand, hypotheses may not predict the exact direction and are used in the absence of a theory, or when findings contradict previous studies ( non-directional hypothesis ). 4 In addition, hypotheses can 1) define interdependency between variables ( associative hypothesis ), 4 2) propose an effect on the dependent variable from manipulation of the independent variable ( causal hypothesis ), 4 3) state a negative relationship between two variables ( null hypothesis ), 4 , 11 , 15 4) replace the working hypothesis if rejected ( alternative hypothesis ), 15 explain the relationship of phenomena to possibly generate a theory ( working hypothesis ), 11 5) involve quantifiable variables that can be tested statistically ( statistical hypothesis ), 11 6) or express a relationship whose interlinks can be verified logically ( logical hypothesis ). 11 We provide examples of simple, complex, directional, non-directional, associative, causal, null, alternative, working, statistical, and logical hypotheses in quantitative research, as well as the definition of quantitative hypothesis-testing research in Table 3 .

Quantitative research hypotheses
Simple hypothesis
- Predicts relationship between single dependent variable and single independent variable
If the dose of the new medication (single independent variable) is high, blood pressure (single dependent variable) is lowered.
Complex hypothesis
- Foretells relationship between two or more independent and dependent variables
The higher the use of anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, and adjunctive agents (3 independent variables), the higher would be the survival rate (1 dependent variable).
Directional hypothesis
- Identifies study direction based on theory towards particular outcome to clarify relationship between variables
Privately funded research projects will have a larger international scope (study direction) than publicly funded research projects.
Non-directional hypothesis
- Nature of relationship between two variables or exact study direction is not identified
- Does not involve a theory
Women and men are different in terms of helpfulness. (Exact study direction is not identified)
Associative hypothesis
- Describes variable interdependency
- Change in one variable causes change in another variable
A larger number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 in the region (change in independent variable) will reduce the region’s incidence of COVID-19 infection (change in dependent variable).
Causal hypothesis
- An effect on dependent variable is predicted from manipulation of independent variable
A change into a high-fiber diet (independent variable) will reduce the blood sugar level (dependent variable) of the patient.
Null hypothesis
- A negative statement indicating no relationship or difference between 2 variables
There is no significant difference in the severity of pulmonary metastases between the new drug (variable 1) and the current drug (variable 2).
Alternative hypothesis
- Following a null hypothesis, an alternative hypothesis predicts a relationship between 2 study variables
The new drug (variable 1) is better on average in reducing the level of pain from pulmonary metastasis than the current drug (variable 2).
Working hypothesis
- A hypothesis that is initially accepted for further research to produce a feasible theory
Dairy cows fed with concentrates of different formulations will produce different amounts of milk.
Statistical hypothesis
- Assumption about the value of population parameter or relationship among several population characteristics
- Validity tested by a statistical experiment or analysis
The mean recovery rate from COVID-19 infection (value of population parameter) is not significantly different between population 1 and population 2.
There is a positive correlation between the level of stress at the workplace and the number of suicides (population characteristics) among working people in Japan.
Logical hypothesis
- Offers or proposes an explanation with limited or no extensive evidence
If healthcare workers provide more educational programs about contraception methods, the number of adolescent pregnancies will be less.
Hypothesis-testing (Quantitative hypothesis-testing research)
- Quantitative research uses deductive reasoning.
- This involves the formation of a hypothesis, collection of data in the investigation of the problem, analysis and use of the data from the investigation, and drawing of conclusions to validate or nullify the hypotheses.

Research questions in qualitative research

Unlike research questions in quantitative research, research questions in qualitative research are usually continuously reviewed and reformulated. The central question and associated subquestions are stated more than the hypotheses. 15 The central question broadly explores a complex set of factors surrounding the central phenomenon, aiming to present the varied perspectives of participants. 15

There are varied goals for which qualitative research questions are developed. These questions can function in several ways, such as to 1) identify and describe existing conditions ( contextual research question s); 2) describe a phenomenon ( descriptive research questions ); 3) assess the effectiveness of existing methods, protocols, theories, or procedures ( evaluation research questions ); 4) examine a phenomenon or analyze the reasons or relationships between subjects or phenomena ( explanatory research questions ); or 5) focus on unknown aspects of a particular topic ( exploratory research questions ). 5 In addition, some qualitative research questions provide new ideas for the development of theories and actions ( generative research questions ) or advance specific ideologies of a position ( ideological research questions ). 1 Other qualitative research questions may build on a body of existing literature and become working guidelines ( ethnographic research questions ). Research questions may also be broadly stated without specific reference to the existing literature or a typology of questions ( phenomenological research questions ), may be directed towards generating a theory of some process ( grounded theory questions ), or may address a description of the case and the emerging themes ( qualitative case study questions ). 15 We provide examples of contextual, descriptive, evaluation, explanatory, exploratory, generative, ideological, ethnographic, phenomenological, grounded theory, and qualitative case study research questions in qualitative research in Table 4 , and the definition of qualitative hypothesis-generating research in Table 5 .

Qualitative research questions
Contextual research question
- Ask the nature of what already exists
- Individuals or groups function to further clarify and understand the natural context of real-world problems
What are the experiences of nurses working night shifts in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic? (natural context of real-world problems)
Descriptive research question
- Aims to describe a phenomenon
What are the different forms of disrespect and abuse (phenomenon) experienced by Tanzanian women when giving birth in healthcare facilities?
Evaluation research question
- Examines the effectiveness of existing practice or accepted frameworks
How effective are decision aids (effectiveness of existing practice) in helping decide whether to give birth at home or in a healthcare facility?
Explanatory research question
- Clarifies a previously studied phenomenon and explains why it occurs
Why is there an increase in teenage pregnancy (phenomenon) in Tanzania?
Exploratory research question
- Explores areas that have not been fully investigated to have a deeper understanding of the research problem
What factors affect the mental health of medical students (areas that have not yet been fully investigated) during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Generative research question
- Develops an in-depth understanding of people’s behavior by asking ‘how would’ or ‘what if’ to identify problems and find solutions
How would the extensive research experience of the behavior of new staff impact the success of the novel drug initiative?
Ideological research question
- Aims to advance specific ideas or ideologies of a position
Are Japanese nurses who volunteer in remote African hospitals able to promote humanized care of patients (specific ideas or ideologies) in the areas of safe patient environment, respect of patient privacy, and provision of accurate information related to health and care?
Ethnographic research question
- Clarifies peoples’ nature, activities, their interactions, and the outcomes of their actions in specific settings
What are the demographic characteristics, rehabilitative treatments, community interactions, and disease outcomes (nature, activities, their interactions, and the outcomes) of people in China who are suffering from pneumoconiosis?
Phenomenological research question
- Knows more about the phenomena that have impacted an individual
What are the lived experiences of parents who have been living with and caring for children with a diagnosis of autism? (phenomena that have impacted an individual)
Grounded theory question
- Focuses on social processes asking about what happens and how people interact, or uncovering social relationships and behaviors of groups
What are the problems that pregnant adolescents face in terms of social and cultural norms (social processes), and how can these be addressed?
Qualitative case study question
- Assesses a phenomenon using different sources of data to answer “why” and “how” questions
- Considers how the phenomenon is influenced by its contextual situation.
How does quitting work and assuming the role of a full-time mother (phenomenon assessed) change the lives of women in Japan?
Qualitative research hypotheses
Hypothesis-generating (Qualitative hypothesis-generating research)
- Qualitative research uses inductive reasoning.
- This involves data collection from study participants or the literature regarding a phenomenon of interest, using the collected data to develop a formal hypothesis, and using the formal hypothesis as a framework for testing the hypothesis.
- Qualitative exploratory studies explore areas deeper, clarifying subjective experience and allowing formulation of a formal hypothesis potentially testable in a future quantitative approach.

Qualitative studies usually pose at least one central research question and several subquestions starting with How or What . These research questions use exploratory verbs such as explore or describe . These also focus on one central phenomenon of interest, and may mention the participants and research site. 15

Hypotheses in qualitative research

Hypotheses in qualitative research are stated in the form of a clear statement concerning the problem to be investigated. Unlike in quantitative research where hypotheses are usually developed to be tested, qualitative research can lead to both hypothesis-testing and hypothesis-generating outcomes. 2 When studies require both quantitative and qualitative research questions, this suggests an integrative process between both research methods wherein a single mixed-methods research question can be developed. 1


Research questions followed by hypotheses should be developed before the start of the study. 1 , 12 , 14 It is crucial to develop feasible research questions on a topic that is interesting to both the researcher and the scientific community. This can be achieved by a meticulous review of previous and current studies to establish a novel topic. Specific areas are subsequently focused on to generate ethical research questions. The relevance of the research questions is evaluated in terms of clarity of the resulting data, specificity of the methodology, objectivity of the outcome, depth of the research, and impact of the study. 1 , 5 These aspects constitute the FINER criteria (i.e., Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, and Relevant). 1 Clarity and effectiveness are achieved if research questions meet the FINER criteria. In addition to the FINER criteria, Ratan et al. described focus, complexity, novelty, feasibility, and measurability for evaluating the effectiveness of research questions. 14

The PICOT and PEO frameworks are also used when developing research questions. 1 The following elements are addressed in these frameworks, PICOT: P-population/patients/problem, I-intervention or indicator being studied, C-comparison group, O-outcome of interest, and T-timeframe of the study; PEO: P-population being studied, E-exposure to preexisting conditions, and O-outcome of interest. 1 Research questions are also considered good if these meet the “FINERMAPS” framework: Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, Relevant, Manageable, Appropriate, Potential value/publishable, and Systematic. 14

As we indicated earlier, research questions and hypotheses that are not carefully formulated result in unethical studies or poor outcomes. To illustrate this, we provide some examples of ambiguous research question and hypotheses that result in unclear and weak research objectives in quantitative research ( Table 6 ) 16 and qualitative research ( Table 7 ) 17 , and how to transform these ambiguous research question(s) and hypothesis(es) into clear and good statements.

VariablesUnclear and weak statement (Statement 1) Clear and good statement (Statement 2) Points to avoid
Research questionWhich is more effective between smoke moxibustion and smokeless moxibustion?“Moreover, regarding smoke moxibustion versus smokeless moxibustion, it remains unclear which is more effective, safe, and acceptable to pregnant women, and whether there is any difference in the amount of heat generated.” 1) Vague and unfocused questions
2) Closed questions simply answerable by yes or no
3) Questions requiring a simple choice
HypothesisThe smoke moxibustion group will have higher cephalic presentation.“Hypothesis 1. The smoke moxibustion stick group (SM group) and smokeless moxibustion stick group (-SLM group) will have higher rates of cephalic presentation after treatment than the control group.1) Unverifiable hypotheses
Hypothesis 2. The SM group and SLM group will have higher rates of cephalic presentation at birth than the control group.2) Incompletely stated groups of comparison
Hypothesis 3. There will be no significant differences in the well-being of the mother and child among the three groups in terms of the following outcomes: premature birth, premature rupture of membranes (PROM) at < 37 weeks, Apgar score < 7 at 5 min, umbilical cord blood pH < 7.1, admission to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and intrauterine fetal death.” 3) Insufficiently described variables or outcomes
Research objectiveTo determine which is more effective between smoke moxibustion and smokeless moxibustion.“The specific aims of this pilot study were (a) to compare the effects of smoke moxibustion and smokeless moxibustion treatments with the control group as a possible supplement to ECV for converting breech presentation to cephalic presentation and increasing adherence to the newly obtained cephalic position, and (b) to assess the effects of these treatments on the well-being of the mother and child.” 1) Poor understanding of the research question and hypotheses
2) Insufficient description of population, variables, or study outcomes

a These statements were composed for comparison and illustrative purposes only.

b These statements are direct quotes from Higashihara and Horiuchi. 16

VariablesUnclear and weak statement (Statement 1)Clear and good statement (Statement 2)Points to avoid
Research questionDoes disrespect and abuse (D&A) occur in childbirth in Tanzania?How does disrespect and abuse (D&A) occur and what are the types of physical and psychological abuses observed in midwives’ actual care during facility-based childbirth in urban Tanzania?1) Ambiguous or oversimplistic questions
2) Questions unverifiable by data collection and analysis
HypothesisDisrespect and abuse (D&A) occur in childbirth in Tanzania.Hypothesis 1: Several types of physical and psychological abuse by midwives in actual care occur during facility-based childbirth in urban Tanzania.1) Statements simply expressing facts
Hypothesis 2: Weak nursing and midwifery management contribute to the D&A of women during facility-based childbirth in urban Tanzania.2) Insufficiently described concepts or variables
Research objectiveTo describe disrespect and abuse (D&A) in childbirth in Tanzania.“This study aimed to describe from actual observations the respectful and disrespectful care received by women from midwives during their labor period in two hospitals in urban Tanzania.” 1) Statements unrelated to the research question and hypotheses
2) Unattainable or unexplorable objectives

a This statement is a direct quote from Shimoda et al. 17

The other statements were composed for comparison and illustrative purposes only.


To construct effective research questions and hypotheses, it is very important to 1) clarify the background and 2) identify the research problem at the outset of the research, within a specific timeframe. 9 Then, 3) review or conduct preliminary research to collect all available knowledge about the possible research questions by studying theories and previous studies. 18 Afterwards, 4) construct research questions to investigate the research problem. Identify variables to be accessed from the research questions 4 and make operational definitions of constructs from the research problem and questions. Thereafter, 5) construct specific deductive or inductive predictions in the form of hypotheses. 4 Finally, 6) state the study aims . This general flow for constructing effective research questions and hypotheses prior to conducting research is shown in Fig. 1 .

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Research questions are used more frequently in qualitative research than objectives or hypotheses. 3 These questions seek to discover, understand, explore or describe experiences by asking “What” or “How.” The questions are open-ended to elicit a description rather than to relate variables or compare groups. The questions are continually reviewed, reformulated, and changed during the qualitative study. 3 Research questions are also used more frequently in survey projects than hypotheses in experiments in quantitative research to compare variables and their relationships.

Hypotheses are constructed based on the variables identified and as an if-then statement, following the template, ‘If a specific action is taken, then a certain outcome is expected.’ At this stage, some ideas regarding expectations from the research to be conducted must be drawn. 18 Then, the variables to be manipulated (independent) and influenced (dependent) are defined. 4 Thereafter, the hypothesis is stated and refined, and reproducible data tailored to the hypothesis are identified, collected, and analyzed. 4 The hypotheses must be testable and specific, 18 and should describe the variables and their relationships, the specific group being studied, and the predicted research outcome. 18 Hypotheses construction involves a testable proposition to be deduced from theory, and independent and dependent variables to be separated and measured separately. 3 Therefore, good hypotheses must be based on good research questions constructed at the start of a study or trial. 12

In summary, research questions are constructed after establishing the background of the study. Hypotheses are then developed based on the research questions. Thus, it is crucial to have excellent research questions to generate superior hypotheses. In turn, these would determine the research objectives and the design of the study, and ultimately, the outcome of the research. 12 Algorithms for building research questions and hypotheses are shown in Fig. 2 for quantitative research and in Fig. 3 for qualitative research.

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  • EXAMPLE 1. Descriptive research question (quantitative research)
  • - Presents research variables to be assessed (distinct phenotypes and subphenotypes)
  • “BACKGROUND: Since COVID-19 was identified, its clinical and biological heterogeneity has been recognized. Identifying COVID-19 phenotypes might help guide basic, clinical, and translational research efforts.
  • RESEARCH QUESTION: Does the clinical spectrum of patients with COVID-19 contain distinct phenotypes and subphenotypes? ” 19
  • EXAMPLE 2. Relationship research question (quantitative research)
  • - Shows interactions between dependent variable (static postural control) and independent variable (peripheral visual field loss)
  • “Background: Integration of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive sensations contributes to postural control. People with peripheral visual field loss have serious postural instability. However, the directional specificity of postural stability and sensory reweighting caused by gradual peripheral visual field loss remain unclear.
  • Research question: What are the effects of peripheral visual field loss on static postural control ?” 20
  • EXAMPLE 3. Comparative research question (quantitative research)
  • - Clarifies the difference among groups with an outcome variable (patients enrolled in COMPERA with moderate PH or severe PH in COPD) and another group without the outcome variable (patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH))
  • “BACKGROUND: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) in COPD is a poorly investigated clinical condition.
  • RESEARCH QUESTION: Which factors determine the outcome of PH in COPD?
  • STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: We analyzed the characteristics and outcome of patients enrolled in the Comparative, Prospective Registry of Newly Initiated Therapies for Pulmonary Hypertension (COMPERA) with moderate or severe PH in COPD as defined during the 6th PH World Symposium who received medical therapy for PH and compared them with patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) .” 21
  • EXAMPLE 4. Exploratory research question (qualitative research)
  • - Explores areas that have not been fully investigated (perspectives of families and children who receive care in clinic-based child obesity treatment) to have a deeper understanding of the research problem
  • “Problem: Interventions for children with obesity lead to only modest improvements in BMI and long-term outcomes, and data are limited on the perspectives of families of children with obesity in clinic-based treatment. This scoping review seeks to answer the question: What is known about the perspectives of families and children who receive care in clinic-based child obesity treatment? This review aims to explore the scope of perspectives reported by families of children with obesity who have received individualized outpatient clinic-based obesity treatment.” 22
  • EXAMPLE 5. Relationship research question (quantitative research)
  • - Defines interactions between dependent variable (use of ankle strategies) and independent variable (changes in muscle tone)
  • “Background: To maintain an upright standing posture against external disturbances, the human body mainly employs two types of postural control strategies: “ankle strategy” and “hip strategy.” While it has been reported that the magnitude of the disturbance alters the use of postural control strategies, it has not been elucidated how the level of muscle tone, one of the crucial parameters of bodily function, determines the use of each strategy. We have previously confirmed using forward dynamics simulations of human musculoskeletal models that an increased muscle tone promotes the use of ankle strategies. The objective of the present study was to experimentally evaluate a hypothesis: an increased muscle tone promotes the use of ankle strategies. Research question: Do changes in the muscle tone affect the use of ankle strategies ?” 23


  • EXAMPLE 1. Working hypothesis (quantitative research)
  • - A hypothesis that is initially accepted for further research to produce a feasible theory
  • “As fever may have benefit in shortening the duration of viral illness, it is plausible to hypothesize that the antipyretic efficacy of ibuprofen may be hindering the benefits of a fever response when taken during the early stages of COVID-19 illness .” 24
  • “In conclusion, it is plausible to hypothesize that the antipyretic efficacy of ibuprofen may be hindering the benefits of a fever response . The difference in perceived safety of these agents in COVID-19 illness could be related to the more potent efficacy to reduce fever with ibuprofen compared to acetaminophen. Compelling data on the benefit of fever warrant further research and review to determine when to treat or withhold ibuprofen for early stage fever for COVID-19 and other related viral illnesses .” 24
  • EXAMPLE 2. Exploratory hypothesis (qualitative research)
  • - Explores particular areas deeper to clarify subjective experience and develop a formal hypothesis potentially testable in a future quantitative approach
  • “We hypothesized that when thinking about a past experience of help-seeking, a self distancing prompt would cause increased help-seeking intentions and more favorable help-seeking outcome expectations .” 25
  • “Conclusion
  • Although a priori hypotheses were not supported, further research is warranted as results indicate the potential for using self-distancing approaches to increasing help-seeking among some people with depressive symptomatology.” 25
  • EXAMPLE 3. Hypothesis-generating research to establish a framework for hypothesis testing (qualitative research)
  • “We hypothesize that compassionate care is beneficial for patients (better outcomes), healthcare systems and payers (lower costs), and healthcare providers (lower burnout). ” 26
  • Compassionomics is the branch of knowledge and scientific study of the effects of compassionate healthcare. Our main hypotheses are that compassionate healthcare is beneficial for (1) patients, by improving clinical outcomes, (2) healthcare systems and payers, by supporting financial sustainability, and (3) HCPs, by lowering burnout and promoting resilience and well-being. The purpose of this paper is to establish a scientific framework for testing the hypotheses above . If these hypotheses are confirmed through rigorous research, compassionomics will belong in the science of evidence-based medicine, with major implications for all healthcare domains.” 26
  • EXAMPLE 4. Statistical hypothesis (quantitative research)
  • - An assumption is made about the relationship among several population characteristics ( gender differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of adults with ADHD ). Validity is tested by statistical experiment or analysis ( chi-square test, Students t-test, and logistic regression analysis)
  • “Our research investigated gender differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of adults with ADHD in a Japanese clinical sample. Due to unique Japanese cultural ideals and expectations of women's behavior that are in opposition to ADHD symptoms, we hypothesized that women with ADHD experience more difficulties and present more dysfunctions than men . We tested the following hypotheses: first, women with ADHD have more comorbidities than men with ADHD; second, women with ADHD experience more social hardships than men, such as having less full-time employment and being more likely to be divorced.” 27
  • “Statistical Analysis
  • ( text omitted ) Between-gender comparisons were made using the chi-squared test for categorical variables and Students t-test for continuous variables…( text omitted ). A logistic regression analysis was performed for employment status, marital status, and comorbidity to evaluate the independent effects of gender on these dependent variables.” 27


  • EXAMPLE 1. Background, hypotheses, and aims are provided
  • “Pregnant women need skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, but that skilled care is often delayed in some countries …( text omitted ). The focused antenatal care (FANC) model of WHO recommends that nurses provide information or counseling to all pregnant women …( text omitted ). Job aids are visual support materials that provide the right kind of information using graphics and words in a simple and yet effective manner. When nurses are not highly trained or have many work details to attend to, these job aids can serve as a content reminder for the nurses and can be used for educating their patients (Jennings, Yebadokpo, Affo, & Agbogbe, 2010) ( text omitted ). Importantly, additional evidence is needed to confirm how job aids can further improve the quality of ANC counseling by health workers in maternal care …( text omitted )” 28
  • “ This has led us to hypothesize that the quality of ANC counseling would be better if supported by job aids. Consequently, a better quality of ANC counseling is expected to produce higher levels of awareness concerning the danger signs of pregnancy and a more favorable impression of the caring behavior of nurses .” 28
  • “This study aimed to examine the differences in the responses of pregnant women to a job aid-supported intervention during ANC visit in terms of 1) their understanding of the danger signs of pregnancy and 2) their impression of the caring behaviors of nurses to pregnant women in rural Tanzania.” 28
  • EXAMPLE 2. Background, hypotheses, and aims are provided
  • “We conducted a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate and compare changes in salivary cortisol and oxytocin levels of first-time pregnant women between experimental and control groups. The women in the experimental group touched and held an infant for 30 min (experimental intervention protocol), whereas those in the control group watched a DVD movie of an infant (control intervention protocol). The primary outcome was salivary cortisol level and the secondary outcome was salivary oxytocin level.” 29
  • “ We hypothesize that at 30 min after touching and holding an infant, the salivary cortisol level will significantly decrease and the salivary oxytocin level will increase in the experimental group compared with the control group .” 29
  • EXAMPLE 3. Background, aim, and hypothesis are provided
  • “In countries where the maternal mortality ratio remains high, antenatal education to increase Birth Preparedness and Complication Readiness (BPCR) is considered one of the top priorities [1]. BPCR includes birth plans during the antenatal period, such as the birthplace, birth attendant, transportation, health facility for complications, expenses, and birth materials, as well as family coordination to achieve such birth plans. In Tanzania, although increasing, only about half of all pregnant women attend an antenatal clinic more than four times [4]. Moreover, the information provided during antenatal care (ANC) is insufficient. In the resource-poor settings, antenatal group education is a potential approach because of the limited time for individual counseling at antenatal clinics.” 30
  • “This study aimed to evaluate an antenatal group education program among pregnant women and their families with respect to birth-preparedness and maternal and infant outcomes in rural villages of Tanzania.” 30
  • “ The study hypothesis was if Tanzanian pregnant women and their families received a family-oriented antenatal group education, they would (1) have a higher level of BPCR, (2) attend antenatal clinic four or more times, (3) give birth in a health facility, (4) have less complications of women at birth, and (5) have less complications and deaths of infants than those who did not receive the education .” 30

Research questions and hypotheses are crucial components to any type of research, whether quantitative or qualitative. These questions should be developed at the very beginning of the study. Excellent research questions lead to superior hypotheses, which, like a compass, set the direction of research, and can often determine the successful conduct of the study. Many research studies have floundered because the development of research questions and subsequent hypotheses was not given the thought and meticulous attention needed. The development of research questions and hypotheses is an iterative process based on extensive knowledge of the literature and insightful grasp of the knowledge gap. Focused, concise, and specific research questions provide a strong foundation for constructing hypotheses which serve as formal predictions about the research outcomes. Research questions and hypotheses are crucial elements of research that should not be overlooked. They should be carefully thought of and constructed when planning research. This avoids unethical studies and poor outcomes by defining well-founded objectives that determine the design, course, and outcome of the study.

Disclosure: The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Author Contributions:

  • Conceptualization: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Methodology: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Writing - original draft: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Writing - review & editing: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
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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.

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.

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Characteristics of Quantitative Research

Your goal in conducting quantitative research study is to determine the relationship between one thing [an independent variable] and another [a dependent or outcome 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; an experimental study establishes causality.

Quantitative research deals in numbers, logic, and an objective stance. Quantitative research 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.
  • All aspects of the study are carefully designed before data is collected.
  • Data are in the form of numbers and statistics, often arranged in tables, charts, figures, or other non-textual forms.
  • Project 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.

  Things to keep in mind when reporting the results of a study using quantitative methods :

  • Explain the data collected and their statistical treatment as well as all relevant results in relation to the research problem you are investigating. Interpretation of results is not appropriate in this section.
  • Report unanticipated events that occurred during your data collection. Explain how the actual analysis differs from the planned analysis. Explain your handling of missing data and why any missing data does not undermine the validity of your analysis.
  • Explain the techniques you used to "clean" your data set.
  • Choose a minimally sufficient statistical procedure ; provide a rationale for its use and a reference for it. Specify any computer programs used.
  • Describe the assumptions for each procedure and the steps you took to ensure that they were not violated.
  • When using inferential statistics , provide the descriptive statistics, confidence intervals, and sample sizes for each variable as well as the value of the test statistic, its direction, the degrees of freedom, and the significance level [report the actual p value].
  • Avoid inferring causality , particularly in nonrandomized designs or without further experimentation.
  • Use tables to provide exact values ; use figures to convey global effects. Keep figures small in size; include graphic representations of confidence intervals whenever possible.
  • Always tell the reader what to look for in tables and figures .

NOTE:   When using pre-existing statistical data gathered and made available by anyone other than yourself [e.g., government agency], you still must report on the methods that were used to gather the data and describe any missing data that exists and, if there is any, provide a clear explanation why the missing data does not undermine the validity of your final analysis.

Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research . 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010; Brians, Craig Leonard et al. Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods . 8th ed. Boston, MA: Longman, 2011; McNabb, David E. Research Methods in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches . 2nd ed. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008; Quantitative Research Methods. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Singh, Kultar. Quantitative Social Research Methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2007.

Basic Research Design for Quantitative Studies

Before designing a quantitative research study, you must decide whether it will be descriptive or experimental because this will dictate how you gather, analyze, and interpret the results. A descriptive study is governed by the following rules: subjects are generally measured once; the intention is to only establish associations between variables; and, the study may include a sample population of hundreds or thousands of subjects to ensure that a valid estimate of a generalized relationship between variables has been obtained. An experimental design includes subjects measured before and after a particular treatment, the sample population may be very small and purposefully chosen, and it is intended to establish causality between variables. Introduction The introduction to a quantitative study is usually written in the present tense and from the third person point of view. It covers the following information:

  • Identifies the research problem -- as with any academic study, you must state clearly and concisely the research problem being investigated.
  • Reviews the literature -- review scholarship on the topic, synthesizing key themes and, if necessary, noting studies that have used similar methods of inquiry and analysis. Note where key gaps exist and how your study helps to fill these gaps or clarifies existing knowledge.
  • Describes the theoretical framework -- provide an outline of the theory or hypothesis underpinning your study. If necessary, define unfamiliar or complex terms, concepts, or ideas and provide the appropriate background information to place the research problem in proper context [e.g., historical, cultural, economic, etc.].

Methodology The methods section of a quantitative study should describe how each objective of your study will be achieved. Be sure to provide enough detail to enable the reader can make an informed assessment of the methods being used to obtain results associated with the research problem. The methods section should be presented in the past tense.

  • Study population and sampling -- where did the data come from; how robust is it; note where gaps exist or what was excluded. Note the procedures used for their selection;
  • Data collection – describe the tools and methods used to collect information and identify the variables being measured; describe the methods used to obtain the data; and, note if the data was pre-existing [i.e., government data] or you gathered it yourself. If you gathered it yourself, describe what type of instrument you used and why. Note that no data set is perfect--describe any limitations in methods of gathering data.
  • Data analysis -- describe the procedures for processing and analyzing the data. If appropriate, describe the specific instruments of analysis used to study each research objective, including mathematical techniques and the type of computer software used to manipulate the data.

Results The finding of your study should be written objectively and in a succinct and precise format. In quantitative studies, it is common to use graphs, tables, charts, and other non-textual elements to help the reader understand the data. Make sure that non-textual elements do not stand in isolation from the text but are being used to supplement the overall description of the results and to help clarify key points being made. Further information about how to effectively present data using charts and graphs can be found here .

  • Statistical analysis -- how did you analyze the data? What were the key findings from the data? The findings should be present in a logical, sequential order. Describe but do not interpret these trends or negative results; save that for the discussion section. The results should be presented in the past tense.

Discussion Discussions should be analytic, logical, and comprehensive. The discussion should meld together your findings in relation to those identified in the literature review, and placed within the context of the theoretical framework underpinning the study. The discussion should be presented in the present tense.

  • Interpretation of results -- reiterate the research problem being investigated and compare and contrast the findings with the research questions underlying the study. Did they affirm predicted outcomes or did the data refute it?
  • Description of trends, comparison of groups, or relationships among variables -- describe any trends that emerged from your analysis and explain all unanticipated and statistical insignificant findings.
  • Discussion of implications – what is the meaning of your results? Highlight key findings based on the overall results and note findings that you believe are important. How have the results helped fill gaps in understanding the research problem?
  • Limitations -- describe any limitations or unavoidable bias in your study and, if necessary, note why these limitations did not inhibit effective interpretation of the results.

Conclusion End your study by to summarizing the topic and provide a final comment and assessment of the study.

  • Summary of findings – synthesize the answers to your research questions. Do not report any statistical data here; just provide a narrative summary of the key findings and describe what was learned that you did not know before conducting the study.
  • Recommendations – if appropriate to the aim of the assignment, tie key findings with policy recommendations or actions to be taken in practice.
  • Future research – note the need for future research linked to your study’s limitations or to any remaining gaps in the literature that were not addressed in your study.

Black, Thomas R. Doing Quantitative Research in the Social Sciences: An Integrated Approach to Research Design, Measurement and Statistics . London: Sage, 1999; Gay,L. R. and Peter Airasain. Educational Research: Competencies for Analysis and Applications . 7th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merril Prentice Hall, 2003; Hector, Anestine. An Overview of Quantitative Research in Composition and TESOL . Department of English, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; Hopkins, Will G. “Quantitative Research Design.” Sportscience 4, 1 (2000); "A Strategy for Writing Up Research Results. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper." Department of Biology. Bates College; Nenty, H. Johnson. "Writing a Quantitative Research Thesis." International Journal of Educational Science 1 (2009): 19-32; Ouyang, Ronghua (John). Basic Inquiry of Quantitative Research . Kennesaw State University.

Strengths of Using 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.

Among the specific strengths of using quantitative methods to study social science research problems:

  • 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. Generally, quantitative methods are designed to provide summaries of data that support generalizations about the phenomenon under study. In order to accomplish this, quantitative research usually involves few variables and many cases, and employs prescribed procedures to ensure validity and reliability;
  • Applying well established standards means that the research can be replicated, and then analyzed and compared with similar studies;
  • You can summarize vast sources of information and make comparisons across categories and over time; and,
  • Personal bias can be avoided by keeping a 'distance' from participating subjects and using accepted computational techniques .

Babbie, Earl R. The Practice of Social Research . 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2010; Brians, Craig Leonard et al. Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods . 8th ed. Boston, MA: Longman, 2011; McNabb, David E. Research Methods in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches . 2nd ed. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2008; Singh, Kultar. Quantitative Social Research Methods . Los Angeles, CA: Sage, 2007.

Limitations of Using Quantitative Methods

Quantitative methods presume to have an objective approach to studying research problems, where data is controlled and measured, to address the accumulation of facts, and to determine the causes of behavior. As a consequence, the results of quantitative research may be statistically significant but are often humanly insignificant.

Some specific limitations associated with using quantitative methods to study research problems in the social sciences include:

  • Quantitative data is more efficient and able to test hypotheses, 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 instead of the participating subject;
  • Results provide less detail on behavior, attitudes, and motivation;
  • Researcher may collect a much narrower and sometimes superficial dataset;
  • Results are limited as they provide numerical descriptions rather than detailed narrative and generally provide less elaborate accounts of human perception;
  • The research is often carried out in an unnatural, artificial environment so that a level of control can be applied to the exercise. This level of control might not normally be in place in the real world thus yielding "laboratory results" as opposed to "real world results"; and,
  • Preset answers will not necessarily reflect how people really feel about a subject and, in some cases, might just be the closest match to the preconceived hypothesis.

Research Tip

Finding Examples of How to Apply Different Types of Research Methods

SAGE publications is a major publisher of studies about how to design and conduct research in the social and behavioral sciences. Their SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases database includes contents from books, articles, encyclopedias, handbooks, and videos covering social science research design and methods including the complete Little Green Book Series of Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences and the Little Blue Book Series of Qualitative Research techniques. The database also includes case studies outlining the research methods used in real research projects. This is an excellent source for finding definitions of key terms and descriptions of research design and practice, techniques of data gathering, analysis, and reporting, and information about theories of research [e.g., grounded theory]. The database covers both qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as mixed methods approaches to conducting research.

SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases

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  • What Is Quantitative Research? | Definition & Methods

What Is Quantitative Research? | Definition & Methods

Published on 4 April 2022 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on 10 October 2022.

Quantitative research is the process of collecting and analysing numerical data. It can be used to find patterns and averages, make predictions, test causal relationships, and generalise results to wider populations.

Quantitative research is the opposite of qualitative research , which involves collecting and analysing non-numerical data (e.g. text, video, or audio).

Quantitative research is widely used in the natural and social sciences: biology, chemistry, psychology, economics, sociology, marketing, etc.

  • What is the demographic makeup of Singapore in 2020?
  • How has the average temperature changed globally over the last century?
  • Does environmental pollution affect the prevalence of honey bees?
  • Does working from home increase productivity for people with long commutes?

Table of contents

Quantitative research methods, quantitative data analysis, advantages of quantitative research, disadvantages of quantitative research, frequently asked questions about quantitative research.

You can use quantitative research methods for descriptive, correlational or experimental research.

  • In descriptive research , you simply seek an overall summary of your study variables.
  • In correlational research , you investigate relationships between your study variables.
  • In experimental research , you systematically examine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between variables.

Correlational and experimental research can both be used to formally test hypotheses , or predictions, using statistics. The results may be generalised to broader populations based on the sampling method used.

To collect quantitative data, you will often need to use operational definitions that translate abstract concepts (e.g., mood) into observable and quantifiable measures (e.g., self-ratings of feelings and energy levels).

Quantitative research methods
Research method How to use Example
Control or manipulate an to measure its effect on a dependent variable. To test whether an intervention can reduce procrastination in college students, you give equal-sized groups either a procrastination intervention or a comparable task. You compare self-ratings of procrastination behaviors between the groups after the intervention.
Ask questions of a group of people in-person, over-the-phone or online. You distribute with rating scales to first-year international college students to investigate their experiences of culture shock.
(Systematic) observation Identify a behavior or occurrence of interest and monitor it in its natural setting. To study college classroom participation, you sit in on classes to observe them, counting and recording the prevalence of active and passive behaviors by students from different backgrounds.
Secondary research Collect data that has been gathered for other purposes e.g., national surveys or historical records. To assess whether attitudes towards climate change have changed since the 1980s, you collect relevant questionnaire data from widely available .

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Once data is collected, you may need to process it before it can be analysed. For example, survey and test data may need to be transformed from words to numbers. Then, you can use statistical analysis to answer your research questions .

Descriptive statistics will give you a summary of your data and include measures of averages and variability. You can also use graphs, scatter plots and frequency tables to visualise your data and check for any trends or outliers.

Using inferential statistics , you can make predictions or generalisations based on your data. You can test your hypothesis or use your sample data to estimate the population parameter .

You can also assess the reliability and validity of your data collection methods to indicate how consistently and accurately your methods actually measured what you wanted them to.

Quantitative research is often used to standardise data collection and generalise findings . Strengths of this approach include:

  • Replication

Repeating the study is possible because of standardised data collection protocols and tangible definitions of abstract concepts.

  • Direct comparisons of results

The study can be reproduced in other cultural settings, times or with different groups of participants. Results can be compared statistically.

  • Large samples

Data from large samples can be processed and analysed using reliable and consistent procedures through quantitative data analysis.

  • Hypothesis testing

Using formalised and established hypothesis testing procedures means that you have to carefully consider and report your research variables, predictions, data collection and testing methods before coming to a conclusion.

Despite the benefits of quantitative research, it is sometimes inadequate in explaining complex research topics. Its limitations include:

  • Superficiality

Using precise and restrictive operational definitions may inadequately represent complex concepts. For example, the concept of mood may be represented with just a number in quantitative research, but explained with elaboration in qualitative research.

  • Narrow focus

Predetermined variables and measurement procedures can mean that you ignore other relevant observations.

  • Structural bias

Despite standardised procedures, structural biases can still affect quantitative research. Missing data , imprecise measurements or inappropriate sampling methods are biases that can lead to the wrong conclusions.

  • Lack of context

Quantitative research often uses unnatural settings like laboratories or fails to consider historical and cultural contexts that may affect data collection and results.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to test a hypothesis by systematically collecting and analysing data, while qualitative methods allow you to explore ideas and experiences in depth.

In mixed methods research , you use both qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis methods to answer your research question .

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organisations.

Operationalisation means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

Reliability and validity are both about how well a method measures something:

  • Reliability refers to the  consistency of a measure (whether the results can be reproduced under the same conditions).
  • Validity   refers to the  accuracy of a measure (whether the results really do represent what they are supposed to measure).

If you are doing experimental research , you also have to consider the internal and external validity of your experiment.

Hypothesis testing is a formal procedure for investigating our ideas about the world using statistics. It is used by scientists to test specific predictions, called hypotheses , by calculating how likely it is that a pattern or relationship between variables could have arisen by chance.

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What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples

What is Quantitative Research? Definition, Methods, Types, and Examples

write an essay about quantitative research

If you’re wondering what is quantitative research and whether this methodology works for your research study, you’re not alone. If you want a simple quantitative research definition , then it’s enough to say that this is a method undertaken by researchers based on their study requirements. However, to select the most appropriate research for their study type, researchers should know all the methods available. 

Selecting the right research method depends on a few important criteria, such as the research question, study type, time, costs, data availability, and availability of respondents. There are two main types of research methods— quantitative research  and qualitative research. The purpose of quantitative research is to validate or test a theory or hypothesis and that of qualitative research is to understand a subject or event or identify reasons for observed patterns.   

Quantitative research methods  are used to observe events that affect a particular group of individuals, which is the sample population. In this type of research, diverse numerical data are collected through various methods and then statistically analyzed to aggregate the data, compare them, or show relationships among the data. Quantitative research methods broadly include questionnaires, structured observations, and experiments.  

Here are two quantitative research examples:  

  • Satisfaction surveys sent out by a company regarding their revamped customer service initiatives. Customers are asked to rate their experience on a rating scale of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent).  
  • A school has introduced a new after-school program for children, and a few months after commencement, the school sends out feedback questionnaires to the parents of the enrolled children. Such questionnaires usually include close-ended questions that require either definite answers or a Yes/No option. This helps in a quick, overall assessment of the program’s outreach and success.  

write an essay about quantitative research

Table of Contents

What is quantitative research ? 1,2

write an essay about quantitative research

The steps shown in the figure can be grouped into the following broad steps:  

  • Theory : Define the problem area or area of interest and create a research question.  
  • Hypothesis : Develop a hypothesis based on the research question. This hypothesis will be tested in the remaining steps.  
  • Research design : In this step, the most appropriate quantitative research design will be selected, including deciding on the sample size, selecting respondents, identifying research sites, if any, etc.
  • Data collection : This process could be extensive based on your research objective and sample size.  
  • Data analysis : Statistical analysis is used to analyze the data collected. The results from the analysis help in either supporting or rejecting your hypothesis.  
  • Present results : Based on the data analysis, conclusions are drawn, and results are presented as accurately as possible.  

Quantitative research characteristics 4

  • Large sample size : This ensures reliability because this sample represents the target population or market. Due to the large sample size, the outcomes can be generalized to the entire population as well, making this one of the important characteristics of quantitative research .  
  • Structured data and measurable variables: The data are numeric and can be analyzed easily. Quantitative research involves the use of measurable variables such as age, salary range, highest education, etc.  
  • Easy-to-use data collection methods : The methods include experiments, controlled observations, and questionnaires and surveys with a rating scale or close-ended questions, which require simple and to-the-point answers; are not bound by geographical regions; and are easy to administer.  
  • Data analysis : Structured and accurate statistical analysis methods using software applications such as Excel, SPSS, R. The analysis is fast, accurate, and less effort intensive.  
  • Reliable : The respondents answer close-ended questions, their responses are direct without ambiguity and yield numeric outcomes, which are therefore highly reliable.  
  • Reusable outcomes : This is one of the key characteristics – outcomes of one research can be used and replicated in other research as well and is not exclusive to only one study.  

Quantitative research methods 5

Quantitative research methods are classified into two types—primary and secondary.  

Primary quantitative research method:

In this type of quantitative research , data are directly collected by the researchers using the following methods.

– Survey research : Surveys are the easiest and most commonly used quantitative research method . They are of two types— cross-sectional and longitudinal.   

->Cross-sectional surveys are specifically conducted on a target population for a specified period, that is, these surveys have a specific starting and ending time and researchers study the events during this period to arrive at conclusions. The main purpose of these surveys is to describe and assess the characteristics of a population. There is one independent variable in this study, which is a common factor applicable to all participants in the population, for example, living in a specific city, diagnosed with a specific disease, of a certain age group, etc. An example of a cross-sectional survey is a study to understand why individuals residing in houses built before 1979 in the US are more susceptible to lead contamination.  

->Longitudinal surveys are conducted at different time durations. These surveys involve observing the interactions among different variables in the target population, exposing them to various causal factors, and understanding their effects across a longer period. These studies are helpful to analyze a problem in the long term. An example of a longitudinal study is the study of the relationship between smoking and lung cancer over a long period.  

– Descriptive research : Explains the current status of an identified and measurable variable. Unlike other types of quantitative research , a hypothesis is not needed at the beginning of the study and can be developed even after data collection. This type of quantitative research describes the characteristics of a problem and answers the what, when, where of a problem. However, it doesn’t answer the why of the problem and doesn’t explore cause-and-effect relationships between variables. Data from this research could be used as preliminary data for another study. Example: A researcher undertakes a study to examine the growth strategy of a company. This sample data can be used by other companies to determine their own growth strategy.  

write an essay about quantitative research

– Correlational research : This quantitative research method is used to establish a relationship between two variables using statistical analysis and analyze how one affects the other. The research is non-experimental because the researcher doesn’t control or manipulate any of the variables. At least two separate sample groups are needed for this research. Example: Researchers studying a correlation between regular exercise and diabetes.  

– Causal-comparative research : This type of quantitative research examines the cause-effect relationships in retrospect between a dependent and independent variable and determines the causes of the already existing differences between groups of people. This is not a true experiment because it doesn’t assign participants to groups randomly. Example: To study the wage differences between men and women in the same role. For this, already existing wage information is analyzed to understand the relationship.  

– Experimental research : This quantitative research method uses true experiments or scientific methods for determining a cause-effect relation between variables. It involves testing a hypothesis through experiments, in which one or more independent variables are manipulated and then their effect on dependent variables are studied. Example: A researcher studies the importance of a drug in treating a disease by administering the drug in few patients and not administering in a few.  

The following data collection methods are commonly used in primary quantitative research :  

  • Sampling : The most common type is probability sampling, in which a sample is chosen from a larger population using some form of random selection, that is, every member of the population has an equal chance of being selected. The different types of probability sampling are—simple random, systematic, stratified, and cluster sampling.  
  • Interviews : These are commonly telephonic or face-to-face.  
  • Observations : Structured observations are most commonly used in quantitative research . In this method, researchers make observations about specific behaviors of individuals in a structured setting.  
  • Document review : Reviewing existing research or documents to collect evidence for supporting the quantitative research .  
  • Surveys and questionnaires : Surveys can be administered both online and offline depending on the requirement and sample size.

The data collected can be analyzed in several ways in quantitative research , as listed below:  

  • Cross-tabulation —Uses a tabular format to draw inferences among collected data  
  • MaxDiff analysis —Gauges the preferences of the respondents  
  • TURF analysis —Total Unduplicated Reach and Frequency Analysis; helps in determining the market strategy for a business  
  • Gap analysis —Identify gaps in attaining the desired results  
  • SWOT analysis —Helps identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of a product, service, or organization  
  • Text analysis —Used for interpreting unstructured data  

Secondary quantitative research methods :

This method involves conducting research using already existing or secondary data. This method is less effort intensive and requires lesser time. However, researchers should verify the authenticity and recency of the sources being used and ensure their accuracy.  

The main sources of secondary data are: 

  • The Internet  
  • Government and non-government sources  
  • Public libraries  
  • Educational institutions  
  • Commercial information sources such as newspapers, journals, radio, TV  

What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples

When to use quantitative research 6  

Here are some simple ways to decide when to use quantitative research . Use quantitative research to:  

  • recommend a final course of action  
  • find whether a consensus exists regarding a particular subject  
  • generalize results to a larger population  
  • determine a cause-and-effect relationship between variables  
  • describe characteristics of specific groups of people  
  • test hypotheses and examine specific relationships  
  • identify and establish size of market segments  

A research case study to understand when to use quantitative research 7  

Context: A study was undertaken to evaluate a major innovation in a hospital’s design, in terms of workforce implications and impact on patient and staff experiences of all single-room hospital accommodations. The researchers undertook a mixed methods approach to answer their research questions. Here, we focus on the quantitative research aspect.  

Research questions : What are the advantages and disadvantages for the staff as a result of the hospital’s move to the new design with all single-room accommodations? Did the move affect staff experience and well-being and improve their ability to deliver high-quality care?  

Method: The researchers obtained quantitative data from three sources:  

  • Staff activity (task time distribution): Each staff member was shadowed by a researcher who observed each task undertaken by the staff, and logged the time spent on each activity.  
  • Staff travel distances : The staff were requested to wear pedometers, which recorded the distances covered.  
  • Staff experience surveys : Staff were surveyed before and after the move to the new hospital design.  

Results of quantitative research : The following observations were made based on quantitative data analysis:  

  • The move to the new design did not result in a significant change in the proportion of time spent on different activities.  
  • Staff activity events observed per session were higher after the move, and direct care and professional communication events per hour decreased significantly, suggesting fewer interruptions and less fragmented care.  
  • A significant increase in medication tasks among the recorded events suggests that medication administration was integrated into patient care activities.  
  • Travel distances increased for all staff, with highest increases for staff in the older people’s ward and surgical wards.  
  • Ratings for staff toilet facilities, locker facilities, and space at staff bases were higher but those for social interaction and natural light were lower.  

Advantages of quantitative research 1,2

When choosing the right research methodology, also consider the advantages of quantitative research and how it can impact your study.  

  • Quantitative research methods are more scientific and rational. They use quantifiable data leading to objectivity in the results and avoid any chances of ambiguity.  
  • This type of research uses numeric data so analysis is relatively easier .  
  • In most cases, a hypothesis is already developed and quantitative research helps in testing and validatin g these constructed theories based on which researchers can make an informed decision about accepting or rejecting their theory.  
  • The use of statistical analysis software ensures quick analysis of large volumes of data and is less effort intensive.  
  • Higher levels of control can be applied to the research so the chances of bias can be reduced.  
  • Quantitative research is based on measured value s, facts, and verifiable information so it can be easily checked or replicated by other researchers leading to continuity in scientific research.  

Disadvantages of quantitative research 1,2

Quantitative research may also be limiting; take a look at the disadvantages of quantitative research. 

  • Experiments are conducted in controlled settings instead of natural settings and it is possible for researchers to either intentionally or unintentionally manipulate the experiment settings to suit the results they desire.  
  • Participants must necessarily give objective answers (either one- or two-word, or yes or no answers) and the reasons for their selection or the context are not considered.   
  • Inadequate knowledge of statistical analysis methods may affect the results and their interpretation.  
  • Although statistical analysis indicates the trends or patterns among variables, the reasons for these observed patterns cannot be interpreted and the research may not give a complete picture.  
  • Large sample sizes are needed for more accurate and generalizable analysis .  
  • Quantitative research cannot be used to address complex issues.  

What is quantitative research? Definition, methods, types, and examples

Frequently asked questions on  quantitative research    

Q:  What is the difference between quantitative research and qualitative research? 1  

A:  The following table lists the key differences between quantitative research and qualitative research, some of which may have been mentioned earlier in the article.  

Purpose and design                   
Research question         
Sample size  Large  Small 
Data collection method  Experiments, controlled observations, questionnaires and surveys with a rating scale or close-ended questions. The methods can be experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive, or correlational.  Semi-structured interviews/surveys with open-ended questions, document study/literature reviews, focus groups, case study research, ethnography 
Data analysis             

Q:  What is the difference between reliability and validity? 8,9    

A:  The term reliability refers to the consistency of a research study. For instance, if a food-measuring weighing scale gives different readings every time the same quantity of food is measured then that weighing scale is not reliable. If the findings in a research study are consistent every time a measurement is made, then the study is considered reliable. However, it is usually unlikely to obtain the exact same results every time because some contributing variables may change. In such cases, a correlation coefficient is used to assess the degree of reliability. A strong positive correlation between the results indicates reliability.  

Validity can be defined as the degree to which a tool actually measures what it claims to measure. It helps confirm the credibility of your research and suggests that the results may be generalizable. In other words, it measures the accuracy of the research.  

The following table gives the key differences between reliability and validity.  

Importance  Refers to the consistency of a measure  Refers to the accuracy of a measure 
Ease of achieving  Easier, yields results faster  Involves more analysis, more difficult to achieve 
Assessment method  By examining the consistency of outcomes over time, between various observers, and within the test  By comparing the accuracy of the results with accepted theories and other measurements of the same idea 
Relationship  Unreliable measurements typically cannot be valid  Valid measurements are also reliable 
Types  Test-retest reliability, internal consistency, inter-rater reliability  Content validity, criterion validity, face validity, construct validity 

Q:  What is mixed methods research? 10

write an essay about quantitative research

A:  A mixed methods approach combines the characteristics of both quantitative research and qualitative research in the same study. This method allows researchers to validate their findings, verify if the results observed using both methods are complementary, and explain any unexpected results obtained from one method by using the other method. A mixed methods research design is useful in case of research questions that cannot be answered by either quantitative research or qualitative research alone. However, this method could be more effort- and cost-intensive because of the requirement of more resources. The figure 3 shows some basic mixed methods research designs that could be used.  

Thus, quantitative research is the appropriate method for testing your hypotheses and can be used either alone or in combination with qualitative research per your study requirements. We hope this article has provided an insight into the various facets of quantitative research , including its different characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages, and a few tips to quickly understand when to use this research method.  


  • Qualitative vs quantitative research: Differences, examples, & methods. Simply Psychology. Accessed Feb 28, 2023.  
  • Your ultimate guide to quantitative research. Qualtrics. Accessed February 28, 2023.  
  • The steps of quantitative research. Revise Sociology. Accessed March 1, 2023.  
  • What are the characteristics of quantitative research? Marketing91. Accessed March 1, 2023.  
  • Quantitative research: Types, characteristics, methods, & examples. ProProfs Survey Maker. Accessed February 28, 2023.  
  • Qualitative research isn’t as scientific as quantitative methods. Kmusial blog. Accessed March 5, 2023.  
  • Maben J, Griffiths P, Penfold C, et al. Evaluating a major innovation in hospital design: workforce implications and impact on patient and staff experiences of all single room hospital accommodation. Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2015 Feb. (Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 3.3.) Chapter 5, Case study quantitative data findings. Accessed March 6, 2023.  
  • McLeod, S. A. (2007).  What is reliability?  Simply Psychology.  
  • Reliability vs validity: Differences & examples. Accessed March 5, 2023.  
  • Mixed methods research. Community Engagement Program. Harvard Catalyst. Accessed February 28, 2023.  

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Quantitative Research: Methodology and Main Focus

The strategy uses for this study is going to be quantitative. In quantitative research, your aim is to determine the relationship between one thing (an independent variable) and another (a dependent or outcome variable) in a population. Quantitative research designs are either descriptive (subjects usually measured once) or experimental (subjects measured before and after treatment). A descriptive study establishes only associations between variables. An experiment establishes causality.

For an accurate estimate of the relationship between variables, a descriptive study usually needs a sample of hundreds or even thousands of subjects; an experiment, especially a crossover, may need only tens of subjects. The estimate of the relationship is less likely to be biased if you have a high participation rate in a sample selected randomly from a population. In experiments, bias is also less likely if subjects are randomly assigned to treatments, and if subjects and researchers are blind to the identity of the treatments.

In all studies, subject characteristics can affect the relationship you are investigating. Limit their effect either by using a less heterogeneous sample of subjects or preferably by measuring the characteristics and including them in the analysis. In an experiment, try to measure variables that might explain the mechanism of the treatment. In an unblinded experiment, such variables can help define the magnitude of any placebo effect. Quantitative research is used to measure how many people feel think or act in a particular way. These surveys tend to include large samples – anything from 50 to any number of interviews. Structured questionnaires are usually used incorporating mainly closed questions – questions with set responses. There are various vehicles used for collecting quantitative information but the most common are on-street or telephone interviews.

Quantitative research is all about quantifying relationships between variables. Variables are things like weight, performance, time, and treatment. You measure variables on a sample of subjects, which can be tissues, cells, animals, or humans. You express the relationship between variable using effect statistics, such as correlations, relative frequencies, or differences between means. I deal with these statistics and other aspects of analysis elsewhere at this site. In this article, I focus on the design of quantitative research. First I describe the types of study you can use. Next, I discuss how the nature of the sample affects your ability to make statements about the relationship in the population. I then deal with various ways to work out the size of the sample. Finally, I advise about the kinds of variable you need to measure.

Studies aimed at quantifying relationships are of two types: descriptive and experimental (Table 1). In a descriptive study, no attempt is made to change behavior or conditions – you measure things as they are. In an experimental study, you take measurements, try some sort of intervention, then take measurements again to see what happened.

Table 1: Types of research design


Lin, J., Shen, C. (1996), “The valuation effects of announcements of asset selloffs”, Review of Securities and Futures Market, Vol. 8 pp.1-22.

Noronha, G.M., Shome, D.K., Morgan, G.E. (1996), “The monitoring rationale for dividends and the interaction of capital structure and dividend decisions”, Journal of Banking and Finance, Vol. 20 pp.439-54.

Zantout, Z.Z. (1997), “A test of the debt-monitoring hypothesis: the case of corporate R&D expenditures”, The Financial Review, Vol. 32 pp.21-48.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, September 17). Quantitative Research: Methodology and Main Focus.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis Analytical Essay

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Application of qualitative and quantitative analyses.

When carrying out an analysis, it is vital that a person opts for a methodology depending on the subject of study. In essence, there are two ways of carrying out an analysis: qualitative analysis and quantitative analysis (Babbie, 2010). These two analytic methods vary by their application of measurements and statistics in deductive reasoning (Dey, 2003).

A quantitative methodology employs measurements, numbers, statistics or quantities during the analytic process. On the other hand, a qualitative methodology is a non-numeric method of analysis and often uses quality, opinion, or feelings during the analytic procedure (Strauss, 2009, Denzin & Lincoln, 2005).

For example, when a traffic officer stops a driver suspecting him of driving under influence, he has to go through the breathalyzer test. The test establishes that there is some alcohol in his blood, hence he is driving under influence. This is a qualitative analysis. However, if the machine confirms that the driver has 0.09 percent alcohol in his blood, then this becomes a quantitative analysis since numericals are involved.

A practical example of a quantitative analysis is observed in an article in the BBC titled, How the internet transformed business (Schifferes, 2006). The article details how the internet, launched 15 years ago by the time was written, has boosted various businesses around the US. Schifferes uses quantities and measurements quite often to support the fact that the internet has actually led to an increase in business activity in the area under focus.

He mentions that “the waiting list for BMWs rose to five years” (Schifferes, 2006). He also mentions that more and more modern restaurants were being opened, a reference to the high rate at which restaurants were coming up, and obviously using numbers to come to this deduction.

To further demonstrate the phenomenal increase in business activity, Schifferes writes that when Netscape went public, its shares tripled in value. He mentions more companies that registered immense growth, such as Cisco Systems (which eventually became the world’s largest company), worth more than $400 billion.

Its value has since risen to approximately $100 billion. Silicon Valley also experienced a boom, with close to a billion dollars worth of investments per week. The climax of this boom was the takeover of AOL for more than $200bn. The NASDAQ also rose five-fold. Generally, Schifferes uses measurements a number of times to emphasize the growth in various businesses as a result of the emergence of the internet.

An article that exemplifies qualitative analysis is the one on the How Stuff Works website. The article, titled, How does the Internet work? (Strickland, 2011). Strickland demonstrates how the internet works using plain language. As opposed to the previous, this article does not use any measurements since the author is not trying to prove a point, just explaining the functioning of the internet using a basic language.

The author generally employs opinions, feelings and/or quality in his explanation. For instance, he begins by recognizing that the internet is still a young technology. This is his opinion as someone may view the period between the invention of the internet and now as a long period.

Strickland takes us through the explanation by explaining the different hardware requirements before a user can access the internet, such as routers, servers, satellites, radios, and so on. It is evident that the author has no interest in using numbers to explain any section of the article. The paper answers the how and why of the internet, rather than what, where and when, often used in qualitative analysis.

While the two analytic methods vary, both are equally important and a researcher must be keen while choosing either of these methods and should base the choice on depending on the subject of study.

Babbie, E. R. (2010). The Practice of Social Research . Wasworth: Cengage.

Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Dey, I. (2003). Qualitative Data Analysis: A User Friendly Guide for Social Scientists . London: Routledge.

Schifferes, (2006). How the internet transformed business , BBC News . Web.

Strauss, A. L. (2009). Qualitative analysis for social scientists . NY: University of Cambridge.

Strickland, J. (2011). How does the Internet work? . Web.

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IvyPanda. (2018, October 11). Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis.

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Writing About Quantitative Research

  • First Online: 26 April 2022

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  • Melissa Whatley   ORCID: 2  

Part of the book series: Springer Texts in Education ((SPTE))

This chapter focuses on how to communicate the results of quantitative research. The first section of this chapter focuses on writing for scholarly audiences, as in the context of a research paper or an academic conference presentation. The second section of this chapter focuses on writing for policymaker or practitioner audiences.

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A full treatment of when and why researchers log variables is beyond the scope of this book, but interested readers are referred to Gujarati and Porter, 2010, Chap. 4 for additional information.

While a full discussion on different approaches to handling missing data in quantitative research is beyond the scope of this book, interested readers can refer to Cox et al. (2014) (Working with missing data in higher education research: A primer and real-world example) and Manly and Wells (2015) (Reporting the use of multiple imputation for missing data in higher education research) for in-depth discussions of some of the more common ways to address missing data.

See Footnote 1 in this chapter regarding logged outcome variables.

Note that it is also good practice to report estimates and measures of uncertainty that go into any test statistic. These might not be written in the main results, but at least in the appendix it is a good idea to report such information. In a case like this, the sample means that were compared and the associated standard error used to calculate t should be available to the well-versed reader.

I am especially grateful to my Twitter followers, who helped me crowdsource many of these recommendations.

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Whatley, M. (2022). Writing About Quantitative Research. In: Introduction to Quantitative Analysis for International Educators. Springer Texts in Education. Springer, Cham.

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  • How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

How to Write a Results Section | Tips & Examples

Published on August 30, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.

A results section is where you report the main findings of the data collection and analysis you conducted for your thesis or dissertation . You should report all relevant results concisely and objectively, in a logical order. Don’t include subjective interpretations of why you found these results or what they mean—any evaluation should be saved for the discussion section .

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Table of contents

How to write a results section, reporting quantitative research results, reporting qualitative research results, results vs. discussion vs. conclusion, checklist: research results, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about results sections.

When conducting research, it’s important to report the results of your study prior to discussing your interpretations of it. This gives your reader a clear idea of exactly what you found and keeps the data itself separate from your subjective analysis.

Here are a few best practices:

  • Your results should always be written in the past tense.
  • While the length of this section depends on how much data you collected and analyzed, it should be written as concisely as possible.
  • Only include results that are directly relevant to answering your research questions . Avoid speculative or interpretative words like “appears” or “implies.”
  • If you have other results you’d like to include, consider adding them to an appendix or footnotes.
  • Always start out with your broadest results first, and then flow into your more granular (but still relevant) ones. Think of it like a shoe store: first discuss the shoes as a whole, then the sneakers, boots, sandals, etc.

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If you conducted quantitative research , you’ll likely be working with the results of some sort of statistical analysis .

Your results section should report the results of any statistical tests you used to compare groups or assess relationships between variables . It should also state whether or not each hypothesis was supported.

The most logical way to structure quantitative results is to frame them around your research questions or hypotheses. For each question or hypothesis, share:

  • A reminder of the type of analysis you used (e.g., a two-sample t test or simple linear regression ). A more detailed description of your analysis should go in your methodology section.
  • A concise summary of each relevant result, both positive and negative. This can include any relevant descriptive statistics (e.g., means and standard deviations ) as well as inferential statistics (e.g., t scores, degrees of freedom , and p values ). Remember, these numbers are often placed in parentheses.
  • A brief statement of how each result relates to the question, or whether the hypothesis was supported. You can briefly mention any results that didn’t fit with your expectations and assumptions, but save any speculation on their meaning or consequences for your discussion  and conclusion.

A note on tables and figures

In quantitative research, it’s often helpful to include visual elements such as graphs, charts, and tables , but only if they are directly relevant to your results. Give these elements clear, descriptive titles and labels so that your reader can easily understand what is being shown. If you want to include any other visual elements that are more tangential in nature, consider adding a figure and table list .

As a rule of thumb:

  • Tables are used to communicate exact values, giving a concise overview of various results
  • Graphs and charts are used to visualize trends and relationships, giving an at-a-glance illustration of key findings

Don’t forget to also mention any tables and figures you used within the text of your results section. Summarize or elaborate on specific aspects you think your reader should know about rather than merely restating the same numbers already shown.

A two-sample t test was used to test the hypothesis that higher social distance from environmental problems would reduce the intent to donate to environmental organizations, with donation intention (recorded as a score from 1 to 10) as the outcome variable and social distance (categorized as either a low or high level of social distance) as the predictor variable.Social distance was found to be positively correlated with donation intention, t (98) = 12.19, p < .001, with the donation intention of the high social distance group 0.28 points higher, on average, than the low social distance group (see figure 1). This contradicts the initial hypothesis that social distance would decrease donation intention, and in fact suggests a small effect in the opposite direction.

Example of using figures in the results section

Figure 1: Intention to donate to environmental organizations based on social distance from impact of environmental damage.

In qualitative research , your results might not all be directly related to specific hypotheses. In this case, you can structure your results section around key themes or topics that emerged from your analysis of the data.

For each theme, start with general observations about what the data showed. You can mention:

  • Recurring points of agreement or disagreement
  • Patterns and trends
  • Particularly significant snippets from individual responses

Next, clarify and support these points with direct quotations. Be sure to report any relevant demographic information about participants. Further information (such as full transcripts , if appropriate) can be included in an appendix .

When asked about video games as a form of art, the respondents tended to believe that video games themselves are not an art form, but agreed that creativity is involved in their production. The criteria used to identify artistic video games included design, story, music, and creative teams.One respondent (male, 24) noted a difference in creativity between popular video game genres:

“I think that in role-playing games, there’s more attention to character design, to world design, because the whole story is important and more attention is paid to certain game elements […] so that perhaps you do need bigger teams of creative experts than in an average shooter or something.”

Responses suggest that video game consumers consider some types of games to have more artistic potential than others.

Your results section should objectively report your findings, presenting only brief observations in relation to each question, hypothesis, or theme.

It should not  speculate about the meaning of the results or attempt to answer your main research question . Detailed interpretation of your results is more suitable for your discussion section , while synthesis of your results into an overall answer to your main research question is best left for your conclusion .

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I have completed my data collection and analyzed the results.

I have included all results that are relevant to my research questions.

I have concisely and objectively reported each result, including relevant descriptive statistics and inferential statistics .

I have stated whether each hypothesis was supported or refuted.

I have used tables and figures to illustrate my results where appropriate.

All tables and figures are correctly labelled and referred to in the text.

There is no subjective interpretation or speculation on the meaning of the results.

You've finished writing up your results! Use the other checklists to further improve your thesis.

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The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.

In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:

  • The type of analysis used
  • Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported

In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:

  • Recurring patterns
  • Significant or representative individual responses
  • Relevant quotations from the data

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

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Introduction, compare and contrast: qualitative and quantitative research, works cited.

  • Creswell, J. W. (2014). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2018). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (5th ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Neuman, W. L. (2014). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches (7th ed.). Pearson.
  • Palys, T., & Atchison, C. (2018). Qualitative research in the digital era: Obstacles and opportunities. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1-11.
  • Maxwell, J. A. (2013). Qualitative research design: An interactive approach (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Bryman, A. (2016). Social research methods (5th ed.). Oxford University Press.
  • Onwuegbuzie, A. J., & Leech, N. L. (2007). A call for qualitative power analyses. Quality & Quantity, 41(1), 105-121.
  • Babbie, E. (2016). The practice of social research (14th ed.). Cengage Learning.
  • Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (Eds.). (2019). SAGE handbook of mixed methods in social & behavioral research (3rd ed.). Sage Publications.
  • Morgan, D. L. (2013). Integrating qualitative and quantitative methods: A pragmatic approach. Sage Publications.

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