- Quantitative research
Quantitative research is the systematic scientific investigation of
quantitativeproperties and phenomenaand their relationships. The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theoriesand/or hypothesespertaining to natural phenomena. The process of measurementis central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observationand mathematical expression of quantitative relationships.
Quantitative research is widely used in both the
natural sciencesand social sciences, from physicsand biologyto sociologyand journalism. It is also used as a way to research different aspects of education. The term quantitative research is most often used in the social sciences in contrast to qualitative research.
Quantitative research is generally approached using scientific methods, which include:
:* The generation of models, theories and hypotheses:* The development of instruments and methods for measurement:* Experimental control and manipulation of variables:* Collection of empirical data:* Modeling and analysis of data:* Evaluation of results
Quantitative research is often an iterative process whereby evidence is evaluated, theories and hypothieses are refined, technical advances are made, and so on. Virtually all research in
physicsis quantitative whereas research in other scientific disciplines, such as taxonomyand anatomy, may involve a combination of quantitative and other analytic approaches and methods.
social sciencesparticularly, quantitative research is often contrasted with qualitative researchwhich is the examination, analysis and interpretation of observations for the purpose of discovering underlying meanings and patterns of relationships, including classifications of types of phenomena and entities, in a manner that does not involve mathematical models. Approaches to quantitative psychology were first modelled on quantitative approaches in the physical sciences by Gustav Fechnerin his work on psychophysics, which built on the work of Ernst Heinrich Weber. Although a distinction is commonly drawn between qualitative and quantitative aspects of scientific investigation, it has been argued that the two go hand in hand. For example, based on analysis of the history of science, Kuhn (1961, p. 162) concludes that “large amounts of qualitative work have usually been prerequisite to fruitful quantification in the physical sciences”. Qualitative research is often used to gain a general sense of phenomena and to form theories that can be tested using further quantitative research. For instance, in the social sciences qualitative research methods are often used to gain better understanding of such things as intentionality (from the speech response of the researchee) and meaning (why did this person/group say something and what did it mean to them?).
Although quantitative investigation of the world has existed since people first began to record events or objects that had been counted, the modern idea of quantitative processes have their roots in
Auguste Comte's positivistframework..
tatistics in quantitative research
Statisticsis the most widely used branch of mathematics in quantitative research outside of the physical sciences, and also finds applications within the physical sciences, such as in statistical mechanics. Statistical methods are used extensively within fields such as economics, social sciences and biology. Quantitative research using statistical methods typically begins with the collection of data based on a theory or hypothesis, followed by the application of descriptive or inferential statistical methods. Typically, a very large volume of data is collected, which requires validating, verifying and recoding before analysis. Software packages such as PSPPand R are typically used for this purpose. Causal relationships are studied by manipulating factors thought to influence the phenomena of interest while controlling other variables relevant to the experimental outcomes. In the field of health, for example, researchers might measure and study the relationship between dietary intake and measurable physiological effects such as weight loss, controlling for other key variables such as exercise. Quantitatively based opinion surveys are widely used in the media, with statistics such as the proportion of respondents in favor of a position commonly reported. In opinion surveys, respondents are asked a set of structured questions and their responses are tabulated. In the field of climate science, researchers compile and compare statistics such as temperature or atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide.
Empirical relationships and associations are also frequently studied by using some form of
General linear model, non-linear model, or by using factor analysis. A fundamental principle in quantitative research is that correlationdoes not imply causation. This principle follows from the fact that it is always possible a spurious relationshipexists for variables between which covarianceis found in some degree. Associations may be examined between any combination of continuous and categorical variables using methods of statistics.
Measurement in quantitative research
Views regarding the role of measurement in quantitative research are somewhat divergent. Measurement is often regarded as being only a means by which observations are expressed numerically in order to investigate causal relations or associations. However, it has been argued that measurement often plays a more important role in quantitative research. For example,
Thomas Kuhn(1961) argued that results which appear anomalous in the context of accepted theory potentially lead to the genesis of a search for a new, natural phenomenon. He believed that such anomalies are most striking when encountered during the process of obtaining measurements, as reflected in the following observations regarding the function of measurement in science:
:When measurement departs from theory, it is likely to yield mere numbers, and their very neutrality makes them particularly sterile as a source of remedial suggestions. But numbers register the departure from theory with an authority and finesse that no qualitative technique can duplicate, and that departure is often enough to start a search (Kuhn, 1961, p. 180).
In classical physics, the theory and definitions which underpin measurement are generally
deterministicin nature. In contrast, probabilistic measurement models known as the Rasch modeland Item response theorymodels are generally employed in the social sciences. Psychometricsis the field of study concerned with the theory and technique for measuring social and psychological attributes and phenomena. This field is central to much quantitative research that is undertaken within the social sciences.
Quantitative research may involve the use of "proxies" as stand-ins for other quantities that cannot be directly measured. Tree-ring width, for example, is considered a reliable proxy of ambient environmental conditions such as the warmth of growing seasons or amount of rainfall. Although scientists cannot directly measure the temperature of past years, tree-ring width and other climate proxies have been used to provide a semi-quantitative record of average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere back to 1000 A.D. When used in this way, the proxy record (tree ring width, say) only reconstructs a certain amount of the variance of the original record. The proxy may be calibrated (for example, during the period of the instrumental record) to determine how much variation is captured, including whether both short and long term variation is revealed. In the case of tree-ring width, different species in different places may show more or less sensitivity to, say, rainfall or temperature: when reconstructing a temperature record there is considerable skill in selecting proxies that are well correlated with the desired variable.
"Quantitative methods" are research techniques that are used to gather quantitative data - information dealing with numbers and anything that is measurable.
Statistics, tables and graphs, are often used to present the results of these methods. They are therefore to be distinguished from qualitative methods.
In most physical and biological sciences, the use of either quantitative or qualitative methods is uncontroversial, and each is used when appropriate. In the
social sciences, particularly in sociology, social anthropologyand psychology, the use of one or other type of method has become a matter of controversy and even ideology, with particular schools of thought within each discipline favouring one type of method and pouring scorn on to the other. Advocates of quantitative methods argue that only by using such methods can the social sciences become truly scientific; advocates of qualitative methods argue that quantitative methods tend to obscure the reality of the social phenomena under study because they underestimate or neglect the non-measurable factors, which may be the most important. The modern tendency (and in reality the majority tendency throughout the history of social science) is to use eclectic approaches. Quantitative methods might be used with a global qualitative frame. Qualitative methods might be used to understand the meaning of the numbers produced by quantitative methods. Using quantitative methods, it is possible to give precise and testable expression to qualitative ideas. This combination of quantitative and qualitative data gathering is often referred to as mixed-methods research.
Examples of quantitative research
* Research that consists of the percentage amounts of all the elements that make up Earth's atmosphere
* Survey that concludes that the average patient has to wait two hours in the waiting room of a certain doctor before being selected.
* An experiment in which group x was given two tablets of Aspirin a day and Group y was given two tablets of a placebo a day where each participant is
randomlyassigned to one or other of the groups.
The numerical factors such as two tablets, percent of elements and the time of waiting make the situations and results quantitative.
Quantitative marketing research
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