Quantitative Research-definition, methodology, methods, characteristics examples and advantages

1.1 Definition

Quantitative research is a type of research classified on the basis of quality and quantity perspective as pertains numeric/quantity measure used on the data being collected to describe the characteristic of the subject matter. It is the systematic process of establishing patterns and averages, make predictions, test causal relationships, and generalize results to wider populations. It involves measurement of unit of observation from quantity point of view such that the variable describing the unit of analysis such as firm size or market share can be measured in terms of units such as ten or twenty units or a composite score can be utilized. In other words, variations in the   value of the unit of observation can be observed in units such as, 1, 2, 3, …. up to nth number. This is a type of research which applies where natural and social sciences discipline exist such as economics, sociology, and marketing. 

1.1.1 Philosophical Viewpoint of Quantitative Research

The proponents of quantitative research posit that the world is balanced and its aspects of concern to the researcher are uniformed. Hence it is possible to measure variables of interest and boldly generalize the results gotten.

The philosophers in this viewpoint believe that it is practical to separate one’s feelings and facts on the ground, such that the world can be assumed to exist as a single reality where by the facts thereof can be measured in isolation through observation. Further, in their debate they have a feeling that since the world is stable, it is possible to achieve objectivity aim to avoid biasness in the whole research process which aid in generalization of results gotten.

Types of quantitative research

  • Non-experimental research
  • Experimental research


Non-experimental research

Non-Experimental research is a sub-set of quantitative research and involves a systematic or step by step investigation on how to practically solve a research problem.  As the name suggests, in all the processes of investigating the subject matter and there is no element of experimenting. This term non-experimenting means that there are no alterations done on a variable. So, if it is a case of non-experimental, it means that variables in the study are NOT tempered with by the researcher (i.e., non-experimental). Therefore, using this criterion, the researcher/investigator advocates those variables should be observed when in their natural or physical phenomenon. The non-experimental Quantitative research under this criterion are three, namely;

  • Quantitative Descriptive Research
  • Quantitative Correlational Research
  • Quantitative Causal-Comparative Research

Experimental research

Experimental research is a sub-set of quantitative research and involves a systematic or step by step investigation on how to practically solve a research problem.  As the name suggests, in all the processes of investigating the subject matter, there is element of experimenting. This term experimenting means there are alterations/manipulations done on a variable. So, in this case of experimental, it means that variables in the study are tempered with by the researcher (i.e., experimental). Therefore, in this criterion, the researcher/investigator advocates those variables should be observed under treatment condition. The quantitative experimental research under this criterion is three, namely;

  • Pre-Experimental Research
  • Quasi-Experimental Research
  • True Experimental Research

Quantitative research methodology

2.1 Definition

Quantitative research methodology is the logical process or step by step road map on how to solve a research problem that entails a variable which can be measured numerically in terms of 1, 2, 3, 16, 22,5, 33.123 etc. Quantitative research methodology involves choosing a logical procedure on the topic to be studied. That is the research problem, how specific objectives and research hypotheses of the study will be identified/or formulated. Identification of knowledge gaps to be filled, the methods used in identification of the study population and sample size determination, type of data to be collected and how it will be collected and analyzed, data presentation and interpretations thereof and the reporting of the research findings.

Quantitative research methodology is the reasoning behind the methods we use in the context of our research study. This provides a foundation as to why one is using a particular method or technique at a particular stage in the research process and not others so that research yield is accomplished either by the researcher or another partner.

2.1.1 Quantitative Questions Research Methodology tries to Answer

Quantitative research aims at answering two aspects of a question. That is; What? and how? The quantitative research question focuses on several perspective which are descriptive, comparative and relational in nature. Those three perspectives are covered by the following questions as follows;


How does this machine work?

What percentage of the last year form fours were admitted in the private Universities?


What is the difference between men and women academic performance?

What is the distance between town A and town B?


What is the relationship between height of the student and chances of winning a marathon?

What connection is there between level of crime and the level of education in village PEE?


The following matrix portrays the link between quantitative type of research and the type of research methodology adopted and then an explanation of the logical approach associated with this category and then in the last column, the research method(s) used in formulating the research problem.

2.2 Quantitative research Methodology-Diagrammatic Approach

The following diagram represents a summary of logical roadmap to be adhered to in quantitative research methodology where quantitative or numerical methods are used to measure/gauge the study variables.

2.2.1 Logical Steps; Quantitative Research Methodology

Under quantitative research, there are logical steps that describe the step-by-step procedure the researcher needs to follow to answer the research questions at hand. The steps are categorized in to two;

-General step-by-step procedures and

-Specific step-by-step procedures.


2.2.2 General Step by Step Procedures of Conducting Quantitative Research

These eight (8) steps are general in nature for they portray the overall way of undertaking quantitative research. They are explained below;

Step One: Identification of the research problem

The first step is the identification of the area of interest and so to speak the specific area of concern. This is governed by the area of specialization of the researcher or as guided by the sponsor.

Step Two: Hypothesizing of the claim the researcher has made

In this stage, the researcher lays down the appropriate hypothesis so as to harmonize the research questions and the objectives of the study to avoid being irrelevant. This exercise also aids in the development of research design and selection of the appropriate sampling tool. As explained in our article entitled Formulation of effective hypothesis , development of a hypothesis will be guided by the research questions at hand that require answers. In this stage the researcher will have to identify the variables which have variable positions or thesis that will explain the concept being focused on.

Step Three: Literature Review

The researcher further, need to collect past studies so as to build the research gaps that are to be filled at the end of the Quantitative research analysis. You see, reviewing of the past studies of the area of interest enables the researcher to identify the conceptual/theoretical research gaps, methodological research gaps and contextual research gaps such that he/she can decide on which research design, sampling technique or data collection method to use to arrive at valid results. The end result of this exercise is to come up with a proposal chanting the way forward. 

Step Four: Research planning

The aim of this step is to lay a strategy on how to complete the research process. Planning aid in sample selection of the respondents and also research designing and also setting plans for data collection and data analysis as well. Planning of how to undertake the research exercise is the design required to complete the task ahead and it is time bound. In other words, planning or research design factors in timelines within which the research exercise will be completed.

Step Five: Data Collection

Remember that quantitative research has numeric data as the bottom line. Therefore, in this step, data is collected from the participants or the respondents in a direct manner. The tools used for collecting the data include and not limited to survey, inventories, checklists, tests amongst others. But one common characteristics of all those tools is that they are translated to numerical data output.

Step Six: Data Analysis

Computer programs which use numerical data format are relied upon for data analysis. Description, comparison of variables or groups and measurement of relationships is pegged on the numerical figures collected or computed for the sake of explaining or describing the construct.

Step Seven: Making of Conclusions and Recommendations

This is the step where ruling is done by the researcher or the investigator as to whether the proposition or postulation already made holds water or not and anchored on the literature review, then the right conclusion and recommendations are made to the right stakeholders.

Step Eight: Research Reporting

This is the step of report writing where by the relationship between the variables being investigated are portrayed.

Quantitative research data collection methods

Research methods are the procedures that are applied in all the phases of research expansions. They are apparatuses used to guarantee the end consequences of research task are accomplished. These techniques vary from one stage of research process to another. These methods are further classified in to two categories, namely;

  1. Pre-Data analysis methods
  2. Data Analysis related methods                                                                     

As per Table 1.1 in this article, quantitative research methods indicated in that table (refer), namely; Experimental, Non-Experimental, systematic observation and secondary research methods for the purposes of formulating the research problem and are some of the methods which fall under pre-data analysis category. However, in this discussion of quantitative research, we will focus first on the NINE main methods of data collection which are also pre-data analysis in nature. That is, Experiments, Controlled observations, Surveys: paper, questionnaires, Longitudinal studies, Polls, Telephone interviews and Face-to-face interviews.

Characteristics of quantitative research

1.Use of well-defined data collection tools

The tools used for collecting data are always highly structured such that definite answers or responses are expected from the participants. For example, the questionnaire has specific questions and sections/parts that guide the respondents on what to report on. Other examples are polls and surveys. Just to mention but a few.

2.Sample size is a true representative of the whole population (i.e., normally distributed)

The sample size associated with quantitative research is characterized by being good enough in size such that it represents the population. This is because it is normally distributed.

3.Data is in numerical form

Data collected is in numerical form such as numbers. And even if in qualitative form, it is converted in to quantitative format for analysis purposes. For example, 10 liters of milk, 30 students with Covid-19 infection. Or if data is qualitative for example, 20 out of 50 women said they underfeed their children due to poverty (i.e., this is qualitative), this is turned to numeric such as 0.4 in ratio or 40% in percentage (i.e., is quantitative).


Research findings under quantitative research is generalized. In other words, the researcher can make general conclusions pertaining the characteristics of the whole population. This is borrowed from the fact that the data collected under quantitative research is assumed to be normally distributed.

5.Constructs used in quantitative research are measurable

The variables that are used in this type of research can be gauged. That is, the characteristic represented by the variable can be measured. For example, age, marital status and number of failed students in a class.

6.The changes or movement of a variable can be represented using figures, tabular and graphical models.

That is, it is possible to communicate the findings using the aforementioned tools for the users of this research information to understand the trends thereof.

7.Reliability of the research outcome

The tools used in data collection such as questionnaires or polls is well structured such that the information being gathered is not vague. Hence, it is reliable for it is valid. For instance, the closed ended questions in a questionnaire are definite and not confusing. Therefore, reliability is high.

8.Outcome is duplicative

The research findings gotten are used to establish models that can be used in other studies. That is, the study findings in one study can be used in similar study to get the expected answers. For instance, the research findings of the treatment of a certain disease can be used to prescribe medicine for similar symptoms or similar sickness.

Advantages of quantitative research


Quantitative research is cheap for it is characterized by standardized models which can be replicated in other similar researches instead of the researcher starting a fresh. This minimizes the research costs of data collection and analysis which is costly and time consuming.


Quantitative research allows for generalization of research findings. This is because the sample collected is large enough to be a true representative of the whole population. The advantage of this is that the cost of using the whole population is minimized. Or alternative two, is that the researcher has convenience by using a sample instead of the population which may be too large to manage.

3.Possible to hypothesize the claim of the researcher

Quantitative research enables the researcher to postulate the possible outcome of the research process other than mere data collection. This approach qualifies the research method to be scientific.

4.Possible to collect reliable data

Data collected under quantitative research represents the facts on the ground. The statisticians say “numbers don’t lie”. So, the data collected will inform the researcher the happenings on the ground.

5.Easy data collection procedures

Quantitative data collection is easy hence convenient to the researcher. This is because with use of a questionnaire or surveys, the dropping and collecting of the filled document is suitable for one does not need to directly collect the data himself/herself. This saves time and minimizes the cost of undertaking the process.

6.Wide coverage spectra

Quantitative data collection covers a wide region. This is because a questionnaire can be emailed to respondents who are near and far. As a result, the population is well represented.

7.High level of validity

Validity is the quality of a measurement tool being able to measure what it was intendent to measure by the researcher. For quantitative research, the questions set in the questionnaire or the other commonly used tools are set in a manner such that the aspect of a characteristic being measured is well captured. This increases validity of data for no much biasness.

Disadvantages of quantitative research

1)Triviality in representation

Quantitative research may not be in a position to represent some of the characteristics that define some study objects such as moods or attitude of an individual. This is because quantitative research prefers numeric approach which is just a figure. Unlike qualitative research which is a wider spectrum hence covering wholeness of that particular characteristic.

2)The focus of quantitative research is Narrow

Quantitative research advocates for use of predetermined variables where by the researcher goes ahead to collect data to confirm the hypothesis thereof. This is shallow and limited for the outcome may prove otherwise.

3)Does not appreciate contextual facts

Quantitative research uses artificial settings such as laboratory or field settings which are not natural settings. As a result, this approach adversely affects data collection and results.

About the Author - Dr Geoffrey Mbuva(PhD-Finance) is a lecturer of Finance and Accountancy at Kenyatta University, Kenya. He is an enthusiast of teaching and making accounting & research tutorials for his readers.