Introduction to Qualitative Research

The main objective of the quantitative research method is to measure social phenomenon numerically. The numbers serve for a specific feature of social reality such as attitudes and behaviors, which are analyzed using a statistical method.
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July 23, 2010 - PRLog -- Quantitative
   The main objective of the quantitative research method is to measure social phenomenon numerically. The numbers serve for a specific feature of social reality such as attitudes and behaviors, which are analyzed using a statistical method. Gall, Gall, and Borg (2003) explain that quantitative researchers develop knowledge by collecting numerical data on observable behaviors of samples and then subjecting the data to numerical analysis. Similarly, Henwood and Pidgeon (1993) state that the purpose of quantitative research is to measure concepts or variables predetermined objectively and to examine the relationship between them numerically and statistically. The unifying principles of the quantitative research method are the connection of the observable or measurable phenomenon with a mathematical representation of the relationship.  
   The quantitative research method design allows researchers to systematically look for correlations between variables to determine relationships. Commonly, a survey or experimental study design is used to examine correlations. The survey design provides a numeric description of trends, attitudes, or opinions of a population while an experimental design tests the impact of a treatment on an outcome. Both design methods produce data that is analyzed deductively, and both assume that something can be measured objectively (Crewell, 2009). The researcher remains independent of the study, and the researcher’s values do not enter in the data collection instrument to provide an environment conducive to objectivity.
   Traditionally, the role for a quantitative researcher is to be neutral in order not to influence behavior or data interpretations. Wallerstein (1998) explains that social reality is to be understood as an objective entity, and it is the job of the researcher to uncover this entity and find the truth. The researcher must maintain objectivity to prevent influences on the conclusion or generalizations for theory building; therefore, data collected related to a phenomenon and unconnected to the researcher could be collected in the same design by other researchers.  
   Quantitative research takes a deductive approach towards data collection. This approach begins with the general and ends with the specific. For instance, the process starts with a hypothesis or theory, and a test or tests are performed to see if the hypothesis holds true for the general population. This is important because the procedure used will drive the type of statistical methods implemented as well as the form of data analysis. Creswell (2009) explains that quantitative data analysis is an ongoing process involving continual reflection about the data, asking analytic questions, and note taking (p. 184). The type of data analysis is usually numerical estimation or statistical inference.
   Quantitative research results are presented as statistical data that is descriptive or inferential. Gall, Gall, and Borg (2003) define descriptive statistics as mathematical techniques for organizing and summarizing a set of numerical data. Descriptive statistics basically describe data related to the dependent and independent variables present in a study.  The data analysis typically indicates variability averages, standard deviation, and range.  Inferential statistics are mathematical procedures for using probabilities and information about a sample to draw conclusions about the population from which the sample presumably was drawn. Often inferential statistics are used to test hypotheses and to relate findings to the sample or population. Inferential statistics results reports include generalized findings, statistical correlations, and comparisons of means and the reporting of statistical significance of findings.
   Qualitative researchers are challenged to continually use appropriate research techniques that address the salient questions in a particular field. The attributes of the quantitative approach promote the numerical measurement of a social phenomenon including attitudes and behaviors. The key for the researcher using the qualitative approach is the relationship and or variables that connect the cause to the social phenomena. The decision to use qualitative methodologies should be considered carefully.  This research method is extremely time consuming however, it can produce very valuable and rich information that could not be collected using other methods of research.

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