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Examples of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Quantitative Methods. Methods that allow data collection so that results can be 'quantified' (Levels of Measure) so that impact or change can be measured. They typically include:

  • Experiments or Quasi-Experiments - Experimental methodology involves manipulating the subjects environment in some way so that different conditions are created. Subjects are then randomly assigned to the different experimental conditions. Quasi-experimental methods are used when random assignment is not feasible. The resulting data are typically analyzed using various statistical techniques. Experiments are particularly useful for establishing causal relationships and/or to testing theory since they allow the researcher to control many aspects of the environment.
  • Surveys - Survey methodologies involve designing instruments that allow for collection of large amounts of data that are typically analyzed using various statistical techniques. Structured interviews can also be used to collect more in-depth data, but done in a way that allows responses to be quantified and analyzed statistically.
  • Secondary Analysis - Many studies involve analyzing data that already exist such as student or trainee records.

Qualitative Methods. Qualitative methods differ from quantitative methods, fundamentally in that 'data' are collected in order to measure 'how much' of something is observed, but rather to gather rich, descriptive data about a person, their environment, or a certain process, in order to develop a deeper understanding of the subject of inquiry. Often qualitative methods are used when relatively little is known about a phenomenon. They typically include:

  • Participant Observation - This is a term that is used to describe a range of activities in which the role of the research as 'participant' can vary from being quite involved in the actual process or activity under investigation, to being quite removed, and strictly an observer. Specific methods captured under this umbrella of observational approaches include ethnography, case studies, and narrative research. In depth interviews may be employed such as cognitive interviewing and "think aloud" inquiry in order to understand an individual's thought process. Focus groups may be employed in which participants also respond to open ended questions, but the element of the interaction process is also captured. In any case, the researcher records extensive notes and the words themselves become the 'data.' The researcher may then look for patterns that emerge that help to shape an understanding of deeper underlying process.
  • Documentary or Content Analysis - This approach involves in depth analysis of existing documents such as journals/diaries, CVs, or policies. Again, the words themselves are data from which patterns or themes are extracted.