Quantitative research utilizes mathematical, statistical, and computational tools to derive results. This structure creates a conclusiveness to the purposes being studied as it quantifies problems to understand how prevalent they are.
It is through this process that the research creates a projectable result which applies to the larger general population.
Instead of providing a subjective overview like qualitative research offers, quantitative research identifies structured cause-and-effect relationships. Once the problem is identified by those involved in the study, the factors associated with the issue become possible to identify as well. Experiments and surveys are the primary tools of this research method to create specific results, even when independent or interdependent factors are present.
These are the quantitative research pros and cons to consider.
List of the Pros of Quantitative Research
1. Data collection occurs rapidly with quantitative research.
Because the data points of quantitative research involve surveys, experiments, and real-time gathering, there are few delays in the collection of materials to examine. That means the information under study can be analyzed very quickly when compared to other research methods. The need to separate systems or identify variables is not as prevalent with this option either.
2. The samples of quantitative research are randomized.
Quantitative research uses a randomized process to collect information, preventing bias from entering into the data. This randomness creates an additional advantage in the fact that the information supplied through this research can then be statistically applied to the rest of the population group which is under study. Although there is the possibility that some demographics could be left out despite randomization to create errors when the research is applied to all, the results of this research type make it possible to glean relevant data in a fraction of the time that other methods require.
3. It offers reliable and repeatable information.
Quantitative research validates itself by offering consistent results when the same data points are examined under randomized conditions. Although you may receive different percentages or slight variances in other results, repetitive information creates the foundation for certainty in future planning processes. Businesses can tailor their messages or programs based on these results to meet specific needs in their community. The statistics become a reliable resource which offer confidence to the decision-making process.
4. You can generalize your findings with quantitative research.
The issue with other research types is that there is no generalization effect possible with the data points they gather. Quantitative information may offer an overview instead of specificity when looking at target groups, but that also makes it possible to identify core subjects, needs, or wants. Every finding developed through this method can go beyond the participant group to the overall demographic being looked at with this work. That makes it possible to identify trouble areas before difficulties have a chance to start.
5. The research is anonymous.
Researchers often use quantitative data when looking at sensitive topics because of the anonymity involved. People are not required to identify themselves with specificity in the data collected. Even if surveys or interviews are distributed to each individual, their personal information does not make it to the form. This setup reduces the risk of false results because some research participants are ashamed or disturbed about the subject discussions which involve them.
6. You can perform the research remotely.
Quantitative research does not require the participants to report to a specific location to collect the data. You can speak with individuals on the phone, conduct surveys online, or use other remote methods that allow for information to move from one party to the other. Although the number of questions you ask or their difficulty can influence how many people choose to participate, the only real cost factor to the participants involves their time. That can make this option a lot cheaper than other methods.
7. Information from a larger sample is used with quantitative research.
Qualitative research must use small sample sizes because it requires in-depth data points to be collected by the researchers. This creates a time-consuming resource, reducing the number of people involved. The structure of quantitative research allows for broader studies to take place, which enables better accuracy when attempting to create generalizations about the subject matter involved. There are fewer variables which can skew the results too because you’re dealing with close-ended information instead of open-ended questions.
List of the Cons of Quantitative Research
1. You cannot follow-up on any answers in quantitative research.
Quantitative research offers an important limit: you cannot go back to participants after they’ve filled out a survey if there are more questions to ask. There is a limited chance to probe the answers offered in the research, which creates fewer data points to examine when compared to other methods. There is still the advantage of anonymity, but if a survey offers inconclusive or questionable results, there is no way to verify the validity of the data. If enough participants turn in similar answers, it could skew the data in a way that does not apply to the general population.
2. The characteristics of the participants may not apply to the general population.
There is always a risk that the research collected using the quantitative method may not apply to the general population. It is easy to draw false correlations because the information seems to come from random sources. Despite the efforts to prevent bias, the characteristics of any randomized sample are not guaranteed to apply to everyone. That means the only certainty offered using this method is that the data applies to those who choose to participate.
3. You cannot determine if answers are true or not.
Researchers using the quantitative method must operate on the assumption that all the answers provided to them through surveys, testing, and experimentation are based on a foundation of truth. There are no face-to-face contacts with this method, which means interviewers or researchers are unable to gauge the truthfulness or authenticity of each result.
A 2011 study published by Psychology Today looked at how often people lie in their daily lives. Participants were asked to talk about the number of lies they told in the past 24 hours. 40% of the sample group reported telling a lie, with the median being 1.65 lies told per day. Over 22% of the lies were told by just 1% of the sample. What would happen if the random sampling came from this 1% group?
4. There is a cost factor to consider with quantitative research.
All research involves cost. There’s no getting around this fact. When looking at the price of experiments and research within the quantitative method, a single result mist cost more than $100,000. Even conducting a focus group is costly, with just four groups of government or business participants requiring up to $60,000 for the work to be done. Most of the cost involves the target audiences you want to survey, what the objects happen to be, and if you can do the work online or over the phone.
5. You do not gain access to specific feedback details.
Let’s say that you wanted to conduct quantitative research on a new toothpaste that you want to take to the market. This method allows you to explore a specific hypothesis (i.e., this toothpaste does a better job of cleaning teeth than this other product). You can use the statistics to create generalizations (i.e., 70% of people say this toothpaste cleans better, which means that is your potential customer base). What you don’t receive are specific feedback details that can help you refine the product. If no one likes the toothpaste because it tastes like how a skunk smells, that 70% who say it cleans better still won’t purchase the product.
6. It creates the potential for an unnatural environment.
When carrying out quantitative research, the efforts are sometimes carried out in environments which are unnatural to the group. When this disadvantage occurs, the results will often differ when compared to what would be discovered with real-world examples. That means researchers can still manipulate the results, even with randomized participants, because of the work within an environment which is conducive to the answers which they want to receive through this method.
These quantitative research pros and cons take a look at the value of the information collected vs. its authenticity and cost to collect. It is cheaper than other research methods, but with its limitations, this option is not always the best choice to make when looking for specific data points before making a critical decision.
About the Author of this Article
Crystal Ayres is a seasoned writer, who has been serving as our editor-in-chief for the last five years. She is a proud veteran, wife and mother. Vittana's goal is to publish high quality content on some of the biggest issues that our world faces. If you would like to contact Crystal, then go here to send her a message.