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August 21, 2015
If you have been asked or you have chosen to produce a quantitative research paper, whether you are reporting on the quantitative research of others or beginning your own quantitative research project, you must understand the difference between the terms “quantitative” and “qualitative.”
This type of research is basically exploratory in nature. There are no experimental and control groups, no real treatment that is being applied to a population sample. “Soft” data is gathered through questionnaires, surveys, and observation. Thus, a research study on the perceptions of identified at-risk students of their schooling environment might involve interviews or written questionnaires. The resulting data will then be organized and reported in order to make some general conclusions about these perceptions.
Contrast the above research project with this one. At-risk students are identified and divided into two groups of matched pairs. Initial data is gathered related to grades, attendance, and behavior incidents. One group is left as is; the other group receives a “treatment,” perhaps specialized programming. At the end of a specified period of time, new data is gathered on the member of each group, relative to the same criteria as before – grades, attendance record, and behavior incidents, and conclusions are reached about the efficacy of the treatment, based upon actual factual data. The quantitative method of research “crunches” numbers to produce statistics that determine the significance of a treatment.
As shown above, quantitative research almost always constitutes a project that involves a treatment of some type, not just an attempt to gather information in an exploratory environment. There must be pre-research and post-research numbers to compare in order to prove statistical significance.
Generally, this type of assignment is given when students are asked to conduct research on the studies of others in a field and to provide a research summary of those studies. In most instances, the essay does not involve original research design and implementation. These types of research projects are usually reserved for laboratory experimentation and for theses and dissertations at the graduate levels. Nonetheless, the essay must include the most relevant and current research available and provide a well-organized summary, perhaps pointing future researchers in specific directions.
Grad students will find themselves involved in two types of such studies, as they produce their theses and dissertations. First a full literature review of existing quantitative research will be required for a section or chapter of the project. Second, the student will then design and implement his/her own quantitative research study to add to or replicate existing research, analyze the gathered data, reach conclusions, and report those conclusions.
Quantitative research and writing is challenging at best and horribly frustrating at worst. If you are in the midst of any type of quantitative essay, paper, or project, and that frustration is stalling you, get some assistance from a qualified field specialist – in getting that assistance you will learn a great deal.