(Hammersly, 1993) defines quantitative research methods as “The term quantitative method refers in large part to the adoption of the natural science experiment as the model for scientific research, its key features being quantitative measurement of the phenomena studied and systematic control of the theoretical variables influencing those phenomena”.
This is indeed a deductive objective process where variables in study are measured in numbers and analysed using suitable statistical methods in order to make a description or generalization. The findings of the study are then reported in a formal report.
Quantitative research thus has the following characteristics:
i. Using standardized approaches to collect data, for example, surveys (paper survey, online survey), face to face interview, telephone interview, longitudinal studies, website interceptors, online polls and systematic observation.
ii. Explaining casual relationship between variables
iii. Test hypothesis
iv. High degree of pre-conceptualization
v. Adopting theory then research approach
Sample survey and Experimental research are some of the research designs that use quantitative method of research. A sample for example uses specific tools and methods to collect information about a particular question.
Quantitative research preferable method of research is suitable when the problem words are translated to quantity in order to describe or to generalize. The bottom line question: “How much/many?” It is also suitable research method because it gives more accurate results when compared to qualitative research. Quantitative research uses statistical methods, thus it is scientific. This guarantees accurate results. The findings from these researches also enable researchers to learn new things about a problem.
Qualitative research is the style of research involving theory construction; that is, the research is generated outside the framework of quantitative approach, that data collected is not subjected to formulaic analysis. It can also be defined as a way of gathering information based on observations made during a study rather than the research data itself. This research encompasses different approaches to interpretative research; this can be historical, educational or sociological. It is based closely to the world around phenomenon.
The main objective in qualitative research is the understanding of social processes relating to the research problem. Thus it can be described as an exploratory research. It digs deep into description of people’s behavior. Through this, it helps researcher to have an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions and motivations.
Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research is an inductive, subjective process of inquiry done in natural setting in order to build a complex, holistic picture, described in words, including the detailed views of the informants are reported in informal, personal language.
This research method uses unstructured or semi-structured techniques in collecting data. It uses focus groups (group discussions), individual interviews, and participation/observations. Besides the sample in these techniques is typically small and respondents are selected to form a given quota. The quota is often studied over a long period of time.
Qualitative research therefore can be used to provide an insight into the research problem and help in generating ideas or hypothesis for potential quantitative research. It can also uncover trends in thought and opinions and help the researcher to dive deeper into the problem.
Qualitative research ideal where problems are answered without generally focusing on quantity, are descriptions (in words) coming from interviews, discussions or observations. The bottom line question is “What is/are?”
Qualitative research methods are applicable in discipline areas such as clinical, education, business and health (for example, applied health and nutritional research). Qualitative approach is widely used in psychiatry researches but in most cases it is combined by quantitative methods. A good example of this type of research is when wants to understand why how people do things. For instance, in a business, the research may have questions like ‘Why do people like product X more than product Y” or “What are the different ways that people use product Z?”
A famous example is Conrad’s (1985) study of why individuals with epilepsy often do not comply with their treatment regimens. Qualitative approach by Conrad (1985) found that individuals actively manage their illness and use of medication via complex patterns of self-regulation. Their non-compliance, irrational from a medical perspective, could thus been seen as a form of reasoned decision-making and not just a matter of ‘disobedience’. This example demonstrates the importance of understanding behavior pattern for the design and delivery of effective intervention.
Mixed methods research
Mixed methods research is a methodology for conducting research that integrates quantitative and qualitative research methods, that is, it involves collecting, analyzing data through quantitative techniques (such as experiments, surveys) while integrating qualitative techniques (such as focus groups, interviews) in the research. Because of this integration, this approach is used to provide a better understanding of the research problem than either of each alone.
In business, this method is also known as comprehensive analysis and is used to analyse companies before making major financial decisions. Common quantitative factors include calculating different ratios (debt/equity, current ratio) and considering different financial metrics (net income, net assets).
When a researcher mixed method or research, he gains the deep understanding of the research problem and therefore he eliminates weaknesses which might have been associated by either of the methods, that is, quantitative and qualitative methods of research when used alone. The examination of the phenomenon can therefore be authenticated.
One of the most advantageous characteristics of conducting mixed methods research is the possibility of triangulation, i.e., the use of several means (methods, data sources and researchers) to examine the same phenomenon. Triangulation allows one to identify aspects of a phenomenon more accurately by approaching it from different vantage points using different methods and techniques. Successful triangulation requires careful analysis of the type of information provided by each method, including its strengths and weaknesses.
Mixed methods are also characterised by providing approaches for developing better instruments for information gathering and measurement. For instance, it uses qualitative methods to gather information about a topic and thereafter instruments to measure such validity can then be constructed
In a nutshell, mixed methods therefore helps to explain findings or how causal processes work.
Applicability of mixed methods of research
This method is suitable in validating or corroborating the results got from other methods of research. For instance, a research that has been carried out using either quantitative or qualitative methods of research can be validated using mixed method.
In cases, where a study has been carried by either quantitative or qualitative method, a second method is used to inform the previous method. For instance, variables studied using qualitative methods can be examined using large sample by quantitative methods.
A researcher may see the need to look at his/her research question from different angles either to clarify the results or see if there are any potential contradictions in findings.
Mixed methods of research are also applicable where the researcher sees the need to elaborate or build on the findings or result from the previous method. For example, if an experimental research on a given research problem and one see the need of understanding the same problem using a qualitative research method.
Mixed methods are also applicable when a researcher wants to generalize finding from quantitative methods; here, qualitative research method will be used to validate those finding in order for the generalization to be made.
A researcher who wants to develop theory about a phenomenon and later test it will use qualitative method to build such theory and subsequently test it using quantitative research methods.
For example, a study to assess people’s knowledge and risk perception about genetically modified food. The researcher can use survey instrument that mixes both qualitative (open-ended) and quantitative (closed-ended) questions, and both forms of data are integrated and analysed.