Research methods are the tools used to answer a research question. They can be broadly categorised under two headings: qualitative and quantitative. If you've ever used statistics you'll be familiar with some quantitative research methods. This type of research deals with things that can be measured - quantities, and it takes an objective, 'scientific' approach (although it's not restricted to scientific research). You can use quantitative research methods to do the following things...
The laboratory experiment is probably the best-known example of quantitative research, but any research that involves the analysis of numerical data is quantitative.
Qualitative research involves observing behaviour, and tends to be subjective and not generalisable to a whole population. You can use qualitative research methods to do the following things...
Qualitative research covers any type of research that doesn't involve statistics or the analysis of numerical data. Ethnographic research is a good example of a qualitative research method; this research method involves the researcher observing a social phenomena - like gang behaviour or the lives of the members of a remote tribe.
You could well use a mix of qualitative and quantitative research methods. For example, you might use statistical methods to find out the percentage of prisoners from different ethnic groups serving life sentences (quantitative research), and then decide to interview some of these prisoners to find out about their backgrounds and life experiences (qualitative research).
Quantitative and qualitative research methods are used to collect different kinds of data to answer different kinds of research questions. This activity will get you thinking about the characteristics of both quantitative and qualitative research, so you start to understand what the different kinds of methods can achieve.
1. Decide whether the characteristics in the table below describe qualitative or quantitative research methods. We've done the first one for you.
|Can be subjective|
|Easy to repeat|
|Would give the same results if repeated|
|Not possible to achieve the same answers if repeated|
|Interested only in facts|
|Interested in opinions|
|Possible to generalise from the results|
|Not possible to generalise from the results|
|Can be used to make predictions|
|Tests theories or hypotheses|
Don't worry if you didn't spot all the characteristics of each method - if you get the opportunity to do some original research at university, you'll explore research methods in more depth to make sure you know which methods can be used to answer which research questions.