University of Cambridge

Quantitative Research

Running Head: Factors to take into consideration when undertaking quantitative research

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Abstract:

When undertaking quantitative research a researcher should take into consideration ethical issues such as confidentiality and anonymity, an appropriate data collection method such as questionnaires and interview should be selected. Another factor to consider is the sampling method to be used and how this will aid in answering the research question. Data collected should be accurate and this can be achieved by choosing probability sampling method and proper formulation of questions. Finally information collected should be confidential and respondents should remain anonymous.

Introduction:

This paper highlights the factors that should be taken into consideration when undertaking quantitative research, research questions are subdivided into two broad categories and they include descriptive research that is aimed at answering what exists in the society and explanatory research that aims at explaining why this exist in society. Research studies will in most cases include descriptive and explanatory research whereby they will highlight what exist in the society and also why this exists. The following are some factors that need to be taken into consideration when undertaking quantitative research.

Variables and units:

Quantitative research is based on the fact that social phenomenal can be quantified and expressed numerically and therefore can be analyzed using statistical methods,  quantitative research involves identification of observations units example individuals and households, variables are also identified that measure specific characteristics of the unit. The researcher should also classify variable collected into independent and dependent variables, this will help in answering the research question whereby the independent variable are collected to show their relationship with the dependent variable therefore the research study will identify the causal effect in the study. (Fowler, 2008)

The Process:

The research process entails a number of steps which include the research question, literature review, research design, data collection, data analysis, interpretation of results and answering the research question. (Hughes, 2006)

From the above diagram it is evident that there are steps that should be followed when undertaking quantitative research, these steps are discussed below: (Creswell, 2003)

1) Selection of topic:

The first step when undertaking quantitative research is the identification of the research topic, this involves designing the research question, the selection of the topic will depend on a number of factors and they include topic selection due to interest of an individual, significance of the social phenomena, research based on existing theories and the ability to research on the topic. (Creswell, 2003)

2) Literature review:

The next step is to undertake research on previous theories that have been developed based on the selected research topic. This step will also involve selection of the theoretical approach that will be used in the study. This step will also involve formulation of questions that will be answered in the study, at this point a literature review will be prepared in order to identify previous studies and theories that support the research questions and methods that will used in the study. (Creswell, 2003)

3) Research design:

Research design is determined by the research question, this involves identifying the most appropriate way to structure the quantitative research in order to answer the research question, the research question will also determine the type of data to be collected and analyzed.

4) Data collection methods:

The research design will involve selection of the most appropriate data collection method. Data collection methods include Questionnaires, Structured Interview, and Observation and analyzing documents

i) Questionnaires:

Questionnaires involve the formulation of questions that aid in the collection of data, questionnaires can be administered to respondents or mailed to the respondents, questionnaires are prepared and pre tested to determine whether questions are biased. Questions formulated will be based on the research question whereby they will aid in the collection of data that will help answer the research questions.  Questions will either be closed or open ended, open ended questions are those questions that will require the respondent to input his own answers to the questions whereas closed questions are those questions whereby the respondent will choose from a list of answers highlighted in the questionnaire.  (Fowler, 2008)

ii) Interviews:

An interview can be undertaken to collect data, there are two types of interviews and they include face to face interview and telephone interview, a face to face interview will involve collection of data whereby the respondent and research administrator sit together, a telephone interview on the other hand will involve calling the respondent and answers obtained over the phone, a face to face interview is considered more expensive given that the research administrator may be required to travel and also this process may be time consuming. (Fowler, 2008)

Interview are further subdivided into structured and unstructured interview, structured interview involves setting up a set of questions that will be administered while unstructured involve asking the respondent to elaborate on certain issues.  (Fowler, 2008)

iii) Observation

Observation is another method of collecting data, this method involves observing participants and recording data, for example collecting data on the number of vehicles that use a certain highway will involve the observation method of collecting data. (Fowler, 2008)

iv) Analyzing documents:

This is secondary data collection method that involves collecting data from published documents example journals and a book, other sources include online databases which are relatively cheap methods of obtaining data, this method is preferred given that it is less time consuming and also less costly. This method however have a disadvantage given that it may given rise to accuracy problems, data accuracy will depend on the purpose of the data collected and that there may rise problem when data may unavailable and therefore a researcher will be required to use primary sources of data which include interview and questionnaires. (Fowler, 2008)

When designing the research data collection methods it is important that the researcher takes into consideration the respondent attitude, data collection methods such as questionnaires should be designed taking into consideration the reaction of the respondents when a certain question is directed to them, also the research questions should be clear and simple and should not be leading questions.

The  other factor that should be taken into consideration is the cost, when selecting the data collection method one should take into consideration the cost associated with that method and whether there exist ways to reduce such costs, face to face interview sometimes may be costly and time consuming and therefore questionnaires that are relatively cheap may be preferred, also the questionnaires may be more appropriate given that they are less time consuming given that a lot of data can be collected at once, for example a study that involves participants from different regions and the respondent sends the questionnaires to the respondents. (Fowler, 2008)

5) Sampling:

Sampling in social research refers to the selection of a few respondents from a population, in some studies it is impossible to collect data from the entire population and therefore a sample is selected, when an appropriate sample is selected it results will represent the entire population, a sample reduces the cost associated with data collection and also reduces time consumed while collecting data. There are two types of sampling and they include probability sampling methods and non probability sampling methods.

In probability sampling the sampling error can be estimated and a confidence interval established for the entire population, probability sampling methods include random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling and clustered sampling. (Stuart, 1994)

i) Simple random sampling:

In simple random sampling the population respondents or units are identified and a random number generator is used, each unit in the population is assigned a number and the unit corresponding with the random number generator is included in the sample. The appropriate sample size is calculated using the expected error and therefore the number of total units selected corresponds to the calculated sample size. (Stuart, 1994)

ii) Systematic sampling:

This is a probability sampling method that involves the selection of the sample using intervals, the first step in undertaking a systematic sample is assigning each unit a number, the researcher then decides on the appropriate sample size and then the sample is selected using intervals, example a study may use systematic sample with a ten unit interval, this means that the first number to be selected will be 1, the next 11, the next 21, if the interval is 5 then the first number will be 1 then 6 then 11 etc. (Stuart, 1994)

iii) Stratified sampling:

Stratified sampling is also an acceptable probability sampling method, this method involves subdividing the entire population using certain characteristics example stratifying data into regions or gender, the next step involves undertaking simple random sampling on the categories and selecting the appropriate sample size. (Maxwell, 2005)

iv) Snowball sampling:

Snowball sampling is another sampling method which is a non probability sampling method, this method involves selecting the first respondent and then asking the respondent to refer you to another respondent, a good example where Snowball sampling is used where we have certain units with unique characteristics, example a research study on gay marriages will use these sampling method, or a study on prostitution will involve this sampling method given that the respondents will refer you to people they know who have the same characteristics. (Stuart, 1994)

6) Ethical issues:

In research there are some ethical issues that need to be taken into consideration, this includes confidentiality, cause no harm to respondents, anonymity and consent. A researcher should treat information collected with confidentiality, this means that the researcher should not state that a particular respondents made a certain statement. The other ethical issue to observe is anonymity whereby the respondent should not given out their names or reference numbers that may identify them as the particular individual that gave certain statements. (Punch, 2005)

The other ethical issue is consent. Participants should be briefed on the purpose of the study and also be informed on any recording that may take place, this way the researcher should gain the consent of the participants by briefing them on the purpose of the study and also how the information will be recorded. Finally the research should not cause harm to the individuals, this takes place whereby the researcher should not ask questions that offend the participants. (Fowler, 2008)

7) Data analysis:

When data has been collected the next step is to analyze data using statistical techniques such as calculating the mean, variance, correlation and regression analysis, all the data collected should be analyzed but some exceptions are made for example cases where we have incomplete questionnaires are rejected and not included in the analysis. In this stage the researcher should report accurately the results obtained and should not in any way alter variables collected in achieving desired results. Data should be presented as they are and a report written to show how the data respond to the research question or topic. (Bamberger, 2000)

8) Other factors to consider:

A good research study will be free from bias, this means that the information and data collected from the study should not vary in any systematic way, and bias in a study may be eliminated through the use of random sampling and also eliminating biased treatment of participants that may affect their responses. (Flick, 2006)

Conclusion:

From the above discussion it is evident that when undertaking quantitative research one has to take into consideration a number of factors, the first step is to formulate a research question, the next step involves literature review where a researcher should search for information on previous studies undertaken on the chosen research question. The next step involves research design where the data collection method and the sampling method is chosen, a researcher may chose to use questionnaires, interview or observation to collect data.

Research design also involves choosing an appropriate sampling method when the population is large, sampling methods include random sampling, quota sampling, systematic sampling and stratified sampling. Sampling helps in reducing costs associated with collecting data from the entire population and also is less time consuming whereby the study is undertaken only a few participants.  After sampling and preparation of the data collection method the next step is data analysis and interpretation, this involves recording all the data collected and analyzing data to make statistical inferences and descriptive statistics, results should also report on how the data has helped answer the research question.

References:

Donald Stuart. 1994. Statistics: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell press.

Floyd Fowler. 2008. Survey research methods. London: Sage Publishers.

John Creswell .2003.Research design: qualitative, quantitative and mixed method approaches. Oxford: Blackwell press.

Joseph Alex Maxwell. 2005. Qualitative and quantitative research design: an interactive approach. Cambridge: Cambridge university press

Keith Punch. 2005. Introduction to social research: quantitative and qualitative approaches. Oxford: Wiley and sons.

Loraine Blaxter, Christina Hughes and Malcolm Tight. 2006. How to research. Cambridge: Cambridge university press

Michael Bamberger .2000. Integrating quantitative and qualitative research. London: Butterworth Heinemann.

Uwe Flick. 2006. An introduction to qualitative research. Oxford: Blackwell press.

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