Quantitative research questions; definition; types; how to construct; examples and differences

1.1 Definition

What is quantitative research question? Is quantitative research question just like any other question you meet anywhere in the streets?

There are several definitions for this term and in our case, we will consider three and then make a conclusion on what a research question is

Definition 1: A quantitative research question is a specific inquiry formulated to capture numeric data pertaining a particular concept or theory.

Definition 2: A quantitative research question is an investigative inquiry to search for answer(s) pertaining a research problem expressed in mathematical figures or numerical terms.

Definition 3: A quantitative research question is a fundamental enquiry framed in a way to gather numeric information pertaining a certain behavior observed on a subject matter in the natural or physical phenomenon

In conclusion;

A quantitative research question is a specifically designed probe by the researcher/investigator to correctly gather numeric answer(s) for either a group of respondents or a study variable. Therefore, on the side of Quantitative research question it requires precise information and it allows respondents to answer concisely.

NB: Quantitative research questions assists in looking into trends and patterns to make reasonable intellect of the research theme. The data gathered can be generalized to the whole population and help make data-driven and sound conclusions. It is also pretty clear that arithmetical reports are hard to debate about with and this makes the data more reliable.

Types of quantitative research questions

There are 3 categories of Quantitative Research Questions used:

• Quantitative Descriptive Research Questions
• Quantitative Explanatory Research Questions
• Quantitative Comparative Research Questions

2.1 Quantitative Descriptive Research Question

Definition:

Quantitative descriptive research question is an inquiry that aims at collecting data which is characterized by description of character or behavior of the subject matter. As the most basic type of quantitative research question, descriptive questions seek to explain when, where, why, or how something occurred. They use data and statistics to describe an event or phenomenon. It focuses mostly on one group and one variable. It is in rare cases that this type of quantitative research questions will consider multiple groups and variables. Further, in the case of quantitative research questions, the researcher wants to gather information about variables that he/she is trying to quantify or measure. So in this case of descriptive research question, the respondent provides an opinion on the trend of the variables he/she wants to measure. Most quantitative research questions start with expressions such as;

What percentage? -you see, the point here is the proportion an occurrence of an event takes place

How frequent? -here the enquiry is on the number of times an event occurs

What amount? -this implies absolute numeric such as 1, 2, 8, 10, and 20 etc. This are arithmetic figures.

Sometimes other statistics such as average, deviation, range variance and quartiles may be used in this type of questions. All those mathematical data is referred to as “hard statistics” and it is used to describe trend or movement of a variable or group of respondents.

Examples of Quantitative Descriptive Research Questions

Question 1: How much sales in US \$ were made by company XAX last week 2020?

Question 2: How often do commerce students participate in training on SME business programs in Village A in region M?

Question 3: How many SMEs close down in a year in Ukraine due to failure to Break Even (B/E)?

Questions4: What are the critical factors influencing the performance of Asian-American based large companies listed in the respective stock markets?

2.1.1 Applicability of Quantitative Descriptive Research Questions

Where does this questions apply well?

1. Useful when providing demographic trends of the respondents such as age, sex, education level
2. Quantitative research questions are beneficial when choosing a research topic or when posing follow-up questions that gather additional information.
3. Applicable where no need of manipulating the variable. In cases where the study entails descriptive research design, the study may be focusing on describing the behavior of the subject matter where you cannot change or alter the variable characteristics. Example sex. In this case one is either a male or female.
4. Focus on one variable-if the data to be collected is for an individual variable, then the descriptive research questions will help in collecting the correct data.
5. Helpful in social work practice as part of community probes.
6. Survey pertaining the community over certain issues concerning them.

2.2 Quantitative Explanatory Research Questions

Quantitative Explanatory Research question is an inquiry that aims at collecting data which is characterized by causal-effect of character or behavior of the subject matter. It focuses mostly on two or more variables and their relationship. In addition, quantitative explanatory research questions, the researcher wants to gather information about variables that he/she is trying to investigate the nature of correlation they have. So in this case of explanatory research question, the respondent provides an opinion on the relationship of focus. Most quantitative explanatory research questions start with expressions such as;

1. What relationship?-you see, the point here is the link or association is between or amongst several variables.
2. Did Covid-19 Pandemic influence the performance of large organizations in the manufacturing industry? -here the enquiry is on the cause-effect relationship between variables.
3. How strong is the relationship between X and Y? -this implies correlation between only two variables and not like the case of cause-effect perspective.

Quantitative explanatory research questions are generalizable across space and time, so they are applicable to a wide audience.

One thing you need to note as a researcher, is that for quantitative explanatory questions, it must comprise an independent or predictor variable and dependent or response variable and the such questions should focus on the relationship between or amongst more variables. My standard format for an explanatory quantitative research question is: “What is the relationship between [independent variable] and [dependent variable] for [target population]?” You should play with the wording for your research question, revising it as you see fit. The goal is to make the research question reflect what you really want to know in your study.

2.2.1 Applicability of Quantitative Explanatory Research Questions

• Useful when building a concept-when conceptualizing over a certain matter, questions of this nature apply.
• Considers two or more study variables-applicable where two or more variables are being studied especially to find out the linkage thereof.
• Commonly used in experimental research design-in this case one variable known as independent variable is manipulated to assess the study outcome.
• Cause effect relationship-where one variable referred to as independent variable is proposed to cause an effect on another variable referred to as outcome variable.

2.3 Comparative Research Question

Quantitative comparative research question is an inquiry that aims at collecting data which is characterized by an element of comparing two or more variables over a certain aspect of character or behavior of the subject matter. It focuses mostly on two or more variables and their level of similarity or differences. In addition, quantitative comparative research questions, the researcher wants to gather information about variables that he/she is trying to investigate the nature of comparison they have. So in this case of research question, the respondent provides an opinion on the comparison perspective. Most quantitative comparative research questions start with expressions such as;

How do you compare X and Y in terms of blah blah?-you see, the point here is the extent to which one variable compares with another from a certain perspective.

Or

Is there difference between?

Example 1

Is there significant difference between examination results of Mathematics for a student who attended tutorials and another who did not attend the tutorials?

Example 2

Does fertilizer of category A influence the performance of maize plant as compared to category B and C fertilizers?-here the enquiry is on the comparison between variables.

NOTE:

In the case of quantitative comparison research questions, the comparison as pertains a particular perspective is based on two or more groups of respondents. That is the question asks to the respondents “what is the difference in” a dependent variable between two or more groups.

Examples of quantitative comparative research questions

Question1: What is the difference in time taken to produce one ton of wheat flour between male and females laborers?

Variable: time taken

Group 1: Male laborers only

Group 2: Female laborers only

Question 2: What is the difference in attendance frequency between online teaching and face to face teaching in a week?

Variable: Attendance frequency

Group 1: online teaching

Group 2: face to face teaching

Question: How do you compare performance of a female member of parliament  to that of a male member of parliament in Africa?

Variable: performance

Group 1: Female member of parliament .

Groups 2: Male member of parliament .

2.3.1 Applicability of Quantitative Comparative Research Questions

• In a study where there are two homogenous groups of respondents.
• Useful when the researcher wants to assess the impact of a variable in more than one group of respondents.
• Laboratory experiment-in this case, there is need of a control group. So quantitative comparative research questions are well suiting.

How to structure quantitative research questions

To come up with good quantitative research questions, the following procedures are necessary;

STEP1: Identify the area of interest that you wish to study

In research, there are many disciplines which are researchable and one has to choose one out of many. Of course the option one will go for will depend on the area of specialization, health science, social science etc.

STEP 2: Classify the nature of the study

There are two mainstream orthodox types of study, namely; quantitative and qualitative. There is also a third type which is referred to as mixed study although this one is a combination of the 1&2 types aforementioned.

This classification is paramount for it guides the researcher of the nature of the research questions to develop to avoid misconception.

STEP 3: Classify the respondent groups to focus on

If the nature of the study in step 2 above is of quantitative category, trace the study groups to be utilized in the study. This will help you as a researcher to be focused only to the groups with the same or common variable of concern. You should note that sometimes groups may resemble in many ways but in this case, one should be guided by the study variables of concern.

STEP 4: Confirm uniformity of study variables

In step 4, you need to ensure that all the groups identified in step 3 have all the variables of your concern. This is purposeful for there should be a balance in that aspect for the main aim is to compare the variables in both groups in respect to a particular attribute.

STEP 5: State the research Problem

With the area of focus the researcher knows the kind of research problem to be solved. It is on the basis of this research problem that you will anchor your research questions on.

STEP6: Classify the quantitative research questions into the three categories, namely;

Descriptive,

Comparative

Relationship

STEP 7: Develop the quantitative research questions applicable for each category.