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Quantitative Research

By kristianhaimanot Aug 17, 2013 1726 Words
Quantitative Research
1. Introduction
Before directly going to the quantitative type of research, let’s say a few points about the terminology research. Many scholars have defined research differently. For example, as cited by Singh (2006), Rusk has defined it as Research is a point of view, an attitude of inquiry or a frame of mind. It asks questions which have hitherto not been asked, and it seeks to answer them by following a definite procedure. It is not a mere theoritizing, but rather an attempt to elicit facts and to face them once they have been assembled. Similarly, Dornyei (2007) defined it as research means trying to find answers to questions, an activity every one of us does all the time to learn more about the world around us.

Hence, it is possible to infer that research is a systematic study of a certain problem by following a series of steps using different genres of research. The research can be done quantitatively, qualitatively or by the combination of both. In this assignment, the quantitative research type will be discussed in detail.

2. Definition of Quantitative Research
As stated above there are different types of research. One of the widely used types of research is quantitative research. According to Dornyei(2007) quantitative research involves data collection procedures that result primarily in numerical data which is then analyzed primarily by statistical methods. In a similar fashion Dawson (2009) stated that quantitative research generates statistics through the use of large scale survey research, using methods such as questionnaires or structured interviews. Therefore, all scholars agree that quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount that are applicable to phenomena that can be expressed in terms of quantity.

Quantitative research was originally inspired by the spectacular progress of the natural sciences in the 19th century and therefore, early social science researchers set out to adopt what was called ‘the scientific method’ in their investigation (Dornyei, 2007). Many scholars have contributed a lot for the development of this type of research.

As stated by Dornyei(2007) in applied linguistics, the period between 1970- 1985 has seen a significant increase of different types of research articles about quantitative research.

There are four main types of research questions that quantitative research is particularly suited to answer, according to Muijs (2004). They are: a. When we want a quantitative answer. For example, if we want to get answer for How many students choose to study education?And related questions, we should use quantitative research. b. Numerical change can likewise only accurately be studied using quantitative methods. For example, are the numbers of students in our university rising or falling? Is achievement going up or down? Hence in order to give response for the stated questions, it is vital to use quantitative research. c. If we want to know the state of something, we often want to explain phenomena. For example, what factors predict the recruitment of English language teachers? What factors are related to changes in students’ achievement over time? These kinds of questions can also be studied quantitatively. d. For the testing of hypotheses. For example, if we want to explain something whether there is a relationship between a pupil’s achievement and their self-esteem and social background, we could look at the theory and come up with the hypothesis that lower social class background leads to low self –esteem, which would in turn be related to low achievement. Hence, quantitative research can try and test this kind of model. 3. Main Characteristics of Quantitative Research

According to Dornyei (2006) the peculiar characteristics of quantitative research are pointed out as follows: a. Using of numbers: The single most important feature of quantitative research is, naturally, that it is centered around numbers. This both opens up a range of possibilities and sets some limitations for researchers. Numbers are powerful, as attested to by the discipline of mathematics. But if the numbers are not supported with contextual clues, they are faceless and meaningless. b. A priori Categorization: Because the use of numbers already dominates the data collection phase, the work required to specify the categories and values needs to be done prior to the actual study. If, for example, respondents are asked to encircle figures in a questionnaire item, they have to show exactly what those figures represent, and in order to make sure that each respondent gives their numerical answer based on the same understanding, the definitions and value descriptors need to be clear. (Donyei 2007, p.27) c. Variables rather than Cases: Quantitative researchers are less interested in individuals than in the common features of groups of people. Therefore, as pointed out by Dornyei(2007) in contrast to the qualitative emphasis on individual case, quantitative research is centered around the study of variables that capture these common features and which are quantified by counting, scaling or by assigning values to categorical data. All the various quantitative methods are aimed at identifying the relationships between variables by measuring them and often also manipulating them d. Statistics and the language of Statistics: Because of the close link of quantitative research and statistics, much of the statistical terminology has become part of the quantitative vocabulary and the resulting unique quantitative language adds further power to the quantitative paradigm. e. Standardized Procedures to assess objective reality: Quantitative research methodology has indeed gone a long way towards standardizing research procedures as stated by Dornyei (2007) to ensure that they remain stable across investigators and subjects. f. Quest for generalizablity and universal lows is the other characteristics of quantitative research by which numbers, variables, standardize procedures, statics and scientific reseasoning are all parts of the ultimate quantitative quest for facts that are generalizable beyond the particular and added up to wide-ranging, ideally universal, laws. Therefore, the stated characteristics of quantitative research make it to be widely used in many research issues.

4. The Difference and Similarity between Quantitative and Qualitative Research When we talk about quantitative research, it is important to see the distinction it has with qualitative research. Hence, Vanderstoep and Johnston(2009), have pointed out the differences that exist between the quantitative and qualitative research methods in the following table: Characteristics| Quantitative research| Qualitative research | Type of data`| Phenomena are described numerically| Phenomena are described in a narrative fashion| Analysis| Descriptive and inferential statistics | Identification of major themes| Scope of inquiry| Specific questions or hypotheses| Broad, thematic concerns| Primary advantage| Large sample, statistical validity, accurately reflects the population| Rich, in–depth narrative description of sample| Primary disadvantage| Superficial understanding of participants, thoughts and feelings | .Small sample, not generalizable to the population at large|

As stated in the table, the disadvantage of quantitative research is that as the study contains so many participants, the answers research participants are able to give do not have much depth. If the researcher wants to ask more narrative questions, it cannot be easily handled in quantitative research. In this respect, qualitative research is preferable. The Strengths of quantitative research, according to Dornyei(2007) is that the quantitative inquiry is systematic rigorous, focused and tightly controlled, involving precise measurement and producing reliable and replicable data that is generalizable to other contexts. From a practical perspective, the research process is relatively quick and offer good value for money, particularly because the data analysis can be done using statistical computer software. In addition, quantitative findings tend to enjoy a universally high reputation with almost any evidence or stakeholder group. The drawbacks of quantitative researches, on the other hand , is that they average out responses across the whole observed group of participant, and by working with concepts of average it is impossible to do justice to the subjective variety of an individual life. Similar score can result from quite different underlying processes and quantitative methods are generally not very sensitive in uncovering the reasons for particular observations or the dynamics underlying the examined situation or phenomenon. Similarly Blaxter (2006) has tried to point the differences between quantitative and qualitative research as follows: Qualitative Paradigm| Quantitative Paradigm|

Concerned with understanding behavior from actors’ own frame of reference| Seeks the facts / cases of social phenomena| Naturalistic and uncontrolled observation| Obtrusive and controlled measurement| Subjective| Objective|

Close to the data: the insider perspective| Removed from the data : the outsider perspective| grounded, discovery oriented, exploratory, expansionist descriptive, inductive | Ungrounded, verification oriented, reductionist, hypothetico-deductive| Process oriented| Outcome oriented|

. Valid: real, rich deep data| Reliable; hard and replicable data| Ungeneralizable, single case studies| Generalizable; multiple case studies.| Holistic| Particularistic|
Assume a stable reality| Assumes a stable reality|

As stated above even though, there exists difference between the two types of researches, they have also similarities. For this, Blaxter (2006) stated that both types of researches can be used for testing hypotheses, qualitative data often includes quantifications (such as more than less than, most, etc). Similarly quantitative approaches can also collect qualitative (non-numeric) data though open- ended questions. As stated in the preceding pages, we have tried to see some important issues about research in general and quantitative research in particular. The definition of quantitative research which is forwarded by different scholars, the difference between the quantitative and qualitative research and the strengths and weaknesses of quantitative research are presented briefly. We have also seen that both quantitative and qualitative research methods have their own drawbacks. Both research methods have their own strengths and weaknesses. Hence researchers can use these research methods according to the type of research they want to conduct. But in order to conduct research in areas of English as a second and foreign language, we suggest that using both types of research methods using mixed methodologies is important.
References
Blaxter,L., Christina,H. and Malcolm,T.(2006). How top research. (3rd ed.) Poland: Open University Press Dawson, C. (2009). Introduction to Research methods: A Practical Guide for Anyone Undertaking Research Project. (4th ed.) United Kingdom: How to Connect a Division of How to Books Ltd.

Dornyei,Z. (2007). Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: Quantitative, Qualitative and mixed methodologies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Muijs,D. (2004). Doing Quantitative Research in Education: with SPSS. New Delhi: Sage Publications Singh,Y.K. (2006). Fundamental of Research Methodology and Statistics. New Delhi: New Age International Publishers Vanderstoep, S. and Johnston, D. (2009). Research Methods for Everybody life: Blending Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches: San Francisco: A Wiley Imprint

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