Quantitative research is irreplaceable when you want to count things and measure trends. The data gathered is usually statistically analysed and used in guiding better decisions.

From quick surveys to guide daily decision making to large consumer research studies, quantitative studies are useful to gather data on a wide variety of questions.

  1. Is there a demand or need for your product, programme or service?
  2. How many people would be interested to buy the product, benefit from the programme or avail the service?
  3. What are the market trends in the area you wish to expand into?
  4. What are the customer trends, preferences, buying and usage habits?
  5. Why is your product, programme or service not delivering as targeted?
  6. How is the market where you are operating/targeting and its stakeholders changing?

Use Cases of Quantitative Research

For instance, if an organisation would like to take up a project to create a Women’s Self-Help Center in its vicinity, it can commission quantitative research among the settlements within 5 kms of its premises. A quantitative survey could provide data on the following:

  • Total population and percentage of women among the total population
  • Number of women who are in the age group 18-60
  • Women’s education levels
  • Women’s source of livelihood and vocational skills
  • Percentage of women who would like to become financially independent

Data from this research would help the organisation’s CSR team design the budget for an appropriate program. At the end of the project, the organisation could also use quantitative research to find out the programme’s impact, measured by the change in its benefactors’ earnings.

Alternately, if you are working for the government or in the development sector and would like to extend the services of a Mobile Health Van to a particular district, quantitative research will get you block-wise details on the medical facilities available per person. This will then help you schedule the mobile van visit where it is most needed.

These are crucial answers that help shape projects and programs, allocate budgets effectively, measure program impact and quantitative study is the best way to gather this kind of data.

Benefits of Quantitative Research

Another reason why quantitative study scores over other methods is that it is relatively economical, easier to render and quicker for respondents to answer.

You can use web or email based surveys that significantly cut down research costs. Paper surveys, while not inexpensive, are also simple to render for quantitative research since they don’t involve complex discussions with respondents. For respondents, filling a quantitative survey with pre-defined answer choices is much simpler and quicker than qualitative researches where respondents have to frame their answers in detail.

The biggest advantage of quantitative research is that the data gathered can be numerically measured using statistical tools, resulting in sharp, unambiguous findings. This makes quantitative researches a popular choice especially, when your objective is to make quantitative predictions.

Structuring Quantitative Research for the Best Results

Quantitative surveys are usually closed-ended, meaning that respondents have to choose options from a specified set of answers. There are also semi-structured questionnaires, where a couple of questions are open-ended. These help in capturing additional feedback and views of respondents.

For a quantitative research to be successful, it need to be structured appropriately. Since the majority of such quantitative surveys would consist of closed-ended questions with fixed choices, it is imperative for the researcher to have a thorough understanding of the subject and anticipate all possible response options.

Since quantitative study primarily aims to find out trends or measures things, here is a checklist of question types that a quantitative survey must ask:

  • Do you?
  • Are you?
  • Is there?
  • How many/times?
  • How often?
  • How much?
  • What type?
  • What is/are?
  • What percentage?
  • To what extent?
  • Would you?
  • And so forth…

For instance, if you want to survey the state of cleanliness in a certain neighbourhood, you would want to ask specific questions such as the ones below, with single or multiple choice response options:

  • How clean is your neighbourhood?
    • ‘Very clean’, ‘fairly clean’, ‘dirty/not clean’, ‘very dirty and stinks regularly’
  • How often is the garbage collected in your neighbourhood?
    • ‘once a day’, ‘twice a day’, ‘once in two days’, ‘once a week’ etc
  • Where do you deposit your household garbage?
    • ‘outside your home’, ‘in a designated bin’, ‘on the street corner’, ‘no fixed spot’, ‘just dump it anywhere’
  • What type of collection mechanism exists?
    • ‘automated collection by garbage disposal van’, ‘safai karamchari/cleaner collects from every household’, ‘collection from street bin’ etc.
  • What do you do if the garbage is not collected as per schedule?
    • ‘call the resident welfare association’, ‘call the municipal corporation’, ‘dump the garbage on the road’, ‘don’t do anything about it’
  • Are you satisfied with the level of cleanliness of your neighbourhood?
    • ‘Very satisfied’, ‘somewhat satisfied’, ‘can’t say’, ‘dissatisfied’, ‘highly dissatisfied’
  • Any other feedback that you would like to share?

A quantitative survey such as this will give a complete picture of the state of cleanliness of a particular area, the frequency of garbage collection, the mechanism of disposal and the satisfaction levels of the residents. After introducing interventions to improve the cleanliness in the area, this survey can be repeated to find out anything has changed.

Magic numbers from quantitative research

The beauty of quantitative research is that, at the end of the survey, you will have data that is numerical. These findings can be analysed statistically and presented using charts, graphs, advanced models such as cluster analysis. This analysis can help to find a relationship between different parts of the data, even if you didn’t have a prior hypothesis.

To take the example before, the data on cleanliness can be plotted on a chart and shared with government departments to exhort them to develop better solutions. A qualitative study, in this case, would be able to get generalized views and opinions of people regarding cleanliness in their neighbourhood. These findings may be considered subjective, rather than concrete data.

Are numbers the panacea for all problems?

The major drawback of quantitative research is that it doesn’t answer “why” effectively. While trends can be measured and counted, this type of research will not provide the opportunity to explore the context behind the trends. The data thus gathered without exploring the “why” will be inadequate to get a 360-degree understanding of the issue under study.

Without commissioning a full-fledged qualitative study, this shortcoming can be overcome by asking one or two open-ended questions at the end of a survey or by using Likert scales to assign ratings to opinions and translate them into numerical data.

Though it doesn’t always reveal the “why” hidden beneath the numbers, quantitative inquiry is an indispensable tool in research. Without it, we will be completely handicapped at knowing what is happening in our area of inquiry, measure its impact numerically or tell compelling stories with the data.

To draw reliable conclusions from numbers, sample size for the study is a critical decision in quantitative research. Besides, structuring the survey effectively and selecting the appropriate quantitative measurement tool have a major impact on study outcomes.

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