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GPM417 Research Skills Guide: Research Methods

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is used to generate numerical data or data that can be converted into numbers. Examples of study types that may be used:  

  • Case study - intensive study of a single case or a small number of cases
  • Cohort study - a longitudinal study that identifies and follows a particular cohort or group who generally share a common characteristic or have experienced a common event.
  • Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) - a trial in which participants are randomly allocated to an intervention and a control. RCTs include methodologies - randomisation and blinding - that reduce the potential for bias and provide good evidence for cause and effect.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is used to explore and understand people's beliefs, experiences, attitudes, behaviour and interactions. It generates descriptive, non-numerical data.  Qualitative research methods include:

  • Documents - the study of documentary accounts of events, such as minutes of meetings
  • Passive observation - the systematic watching and recording of behaviour  
  • Participant observation – here, the researcher also occupies a role or part in the setting, in addition to observing
  • In-depth interview - a face-to-face conversation to explore issues or topics in detail
  • Focus group - method of group interview which explicitly includes and uses the group interaction to generate data.

Mixed Methods

A research study does not have to be exclusively quantitative or qualitative. Many studies will use a combination of both types of research.

In the Dictionary of Statistics and Methodology, Mixed-Method Research is defined as:

"Inquiry that combines two or more methods. This particular term usually refers to mixing that crosses the quantitative-qualitative boundary. However, that boundary is not necessarily the most difficult one to cross. For example, mixing surveys and experiments (both quantitative methods) may require more effort for many researchers than combining surveys and focus groups (the first quantitative and the second qualitative)."

Mixed method research. (2005). In Vogt, P. W. (Ed.). Dictionary of statistics & methodology (3rd ed.).

Qualitative and quantitative research: What's the difference?

SAGE Research Methods Online

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