In a previous post, we look at the first three characteristics of the quantitative research process, which was problem identification, review of literature, and developing a purpose for the research. In this post, we will look at the last three characteristics of the quantitative approach to research which are…
- Collection of numeric data
- Statistical analysis
- Write up of the results using a standardized format
Collection of Numerical Data
Once the purpose of the study has been developed you can think of ways to measure the variables of the study. There are various instruments that can be used to measure the data. One common form of an instrument is a survey. The questions on a survey indicate what people perceive or think about the variables in the study. For example, if a variable is student satisfaction, the question on the survey would relate to what the students think about the school.
People answer the questions on the survey normally using some sort of numerical response such as a Likert scale, which has values from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The respondents select the number that is most closely align with their attitude on the subject. For example, for the student satisfaction survey, we could ask “The teachers are prepared for class.” The students may indicate strongly agree or circle a 5 on the questions or they could strongly disagree and select a 1. A response somewhere in the middle could be 2, 3 or 4.
The analysis is where the data is broken down in order to answer the research questions. The results of this are interpreted in light of your predictions and prior studies. How you analyze the data depends completely on the type of questions you asked. There are many interesting things in almost any data set. However, you must focus on answering your research questions and not on some new discovery you found in your data. New discoveries need to be dealt with in future studies since it is often not acceptable to modify research questions after data collection.
For our student satisfaction example, if the students strongly disagree that the teachers are prepared for class this indicates that the students may not be satisfied with the school since they are not happy with the teachers. One conclusion drawn from this would be that the school must focus on improving the preparedness of their teachers in order to improve student satisfaction.
The reporting of quantitative research is formalized into the following pattern.
- Review of Literature
There is little variation on this format when publishing. For internal documents, there is much more variation in reporting a quantitative study. The writing style for publication is usually objective and impersonal. There is also a desire to avoid any bias or opinions in the study.
The quantitative research process involves the development of research questions that are answered in a systematic way. It is highly important that you focus on answering your research questions in a study. This is where many people get lost as they attempt to navigate this experience. The purpose of the study, as specified in the research questions, shapes the rest of the journey.