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In the field of social sciences, the systematic and empirical investigation of social phenomenon through use of mathematical, statistical and computational techniques is referred to as quantitative research. The main objective of it all is to come up with and employment theories and mathematical models or hypothesizes trying to explain the phenomena (Smith, 1988).
This type or research is applied mainly in psychology, sociology, economics and political science. It involves scientific models which include; collection of empirical data, experimental control and the manipulation of variables. It may also include development of methods and instruments for measurement, modeling and analysis of the collected data and finally the evaluation of results (Hunter, 2008).
As its name suggests, it involves the use of large deal of information in trying reach an unknown conclusion and therefore it vulnerable to having advantages and disadvantages.
To begin with, quantitative research has several advantages. It is an excellent way of getting the final result to either proof or disapproves a hypothesis that was initially made. It has had standard structure for quite a long time and hence can be relied upon across many fields that are of scientific discipline. Since a lot of information is analyzed during the initial stages of the research. The probability of arriving at a comprehensive end result is very high and such results can be legitimately discussed and even published. This research method also filters the opportunity of external factors to affect the final results. If properly designed, it eliminates biasness and the final results/ findings are seen to be real.
On the hand, quantitative research can be employed to test the outcomes of qualitative experiments which are a direct way of promoting subsequent research to verify the hypotheses of it.
Quantitative research gives room for a larger study with big number of people hence there is a tendency to generalize result based on the findings. It also gives room for a larger degree of objectivity because it involves very small number of variables and the prescribed procedure ensures that the answers are that of a reliable set. It also employs standards that can easily be compared and analyzed with other studies of similar nature. This procedure of comparison makes sure that the results obtained are reliable and valid. A personal bias and opinion is avoided to a great extent because those large groups of people that are unknown to the surveyor provide information that is free from the way they know the surveyor. In other words, the research is free from misconception of the sampled population to the surveyor.
With regard to this subject, it is evident that the relationship between the independent and dependent variable is given a great deal of time this therefore means that the researcher is more objective concerning the findings of the research. Through experiments, the hypotheses can be tested because of the possibility of using statistics to measure data. The answers found from quantitative are robust statistically.
Because quantitative research is deductive and particularistic, it is based upon formulating the research hypothesis and empirically verifying them on the selected set of data (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 1992). The hypotheses don’t have value the researcher’s biases, values and preferences are not found to have a place during research in quantitative methods. The communication process is rather viewed as tangible and concrete and that it can analyzed without people involved in communication being contacted in any way (Ting-Toomey, 1984).
Advantages of Quantitative Research
As one of the advantages, the research problem is stated in set and specific terms to avoid any misinterpretation by the sampled population in answering any question concerning the topic under study (Frankfort-Nachmias & Nachmias, 1992). It also clearly and precisely specifies both the independent and dependent variables that are under investigation to avoid confusion during the final analysis of data. It is also possible to have controlled observations in the laboratory experiments and conducting mass surveys or through any other for form of manipulations that can be utilized in research (Balsley, 1970). It is also possible o follow precisely while firmly making sure that the research goals originally set are followed hence arriving at a more objective conclusion and taking the opportunity to put the hypothesis to test and thereafter determining the issues of casualty. The works of Kealey & Protheroe, 1996 found out that it also eliminates or minimizes subjectivity of judgment thereby allowing longitudinal measures to subsequent performance during the carrying out of the research subjects.
Though quantitative research methods proof to be more reliable and tend to give more precise answers to the research question, there are also limitations of the research method and these limitations tend to bring down the trust given to this kind of approach while applying it during research finding analysis and conclusion of results.
Disadvantages of Quantitative Research
To begin with, quantitative research may fail to provide the researcher with the information he/she requires on the context of the situation in the place where the studied phenomena occurs. Secondly, the researcher may lack the inability to control the environment where the respondents provide the answers for the questions in the survey. On the hand, there is the weakness that arises due the type of questions that might be asked in the questionnaire. Specifically, the closed type question ties the hands of respondents by not giving him/her the environment to full explain his/her ideas as he/she thinks. Therefore the correctly structured question should be used during the collection of raw data from the field in which research is carried out. Quantitative research also does not encourage the continuous and evolving investigation of a research phenomenon because the resources put in it might be so vast and therefore discourage subsequent research since the information so obtained can be published and used by other organization in the same filed to practically make decisions.
Sometime, the dataset collected might be much narrower and superficial to be relied upon. This is particularly the case involving small quantitative researches that are characterized by lack of sufficient fund to fully and independently run a research through quantitative methods. One the other hand, the results so obtained using these quantitative methods may be limited because it tends to give bear numerical descriptions rather than facts detailed on a narrative and may provide a less elaborate account of human perception. The kind of environment in which the quantitative research is carried out also presents another threat to the quality of information or raw data obtained. The artificial environment and the level of control given in the exercise, already tampers with the type of answers expected. This is true because the respondents may be surprised or may feel ashamed of writing the correct information into the questionnaire. This level of control will make something out of the real world. In addition, the answers preset may not necessarily reflect how the interviewees feel about the subject and also in some extreme cases may be in the closest match. Another disadvantage is that the way the researchers develop standard questions may lead to ‘structured’ bias or false representation and will try to divert the respondent’s mind into giving false information. The data obtained in this case actually represents the views of the researcher instead of the participating subject. This will always or most of the times lead to divergent conclusion on the subject or topic being investigated.
In addition, there are areas in which this research method cannot be used at all or if used, it is only to a small extent. In fields like psychology and psychiatry, anthropological studies and medical research are some of the areas.
Though it gives an objective perspective or view, not everything can be quantified. This is true because even if a careful scale is chosen or constructed, there can be not continuum. Most of the time the questions drafted are not carefully constructed or worded to remove any type of redundancy or any aspects or double-barreled. The questions should be made direct, very clear and they should only address one point at a time. In order to achieve this, it requires a lot of time to prepare such questions and also laborious exercise.
There are also other disadvantages of this type of research in that the feeling, emotions, motives, opinions and intents of the subject being interviewed are not taken into account during data analysis. Outward behaviour is the one considered only and this is a loophole to obtain inconsistent responses and may lead to analysis of incorrect or misguided data. The quantitative questionnaires are usually pre-coded and that they lack depth and insight of the qualitative study. The best approach is to first conduct a qualitative research to identify issues and thereafter confirm their validity by use of quantitative research. This will act to combine depth and insight.
Finally, quantitative studies most of the time require a lot of statistical analysis. This is difficult because most scientists are not statisticians. The field of statistics is a very wide field and can be very difficult to non-mathematicians.
- Balsley, H.L. (1970). Quantitative research methods for business and economics. New York: Random House.
- Frankfort-Nachmias, C., & Nachmias, D. (1992). Research methods in the social sciences (4th ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press.
- Hunter, Laura and Erin Leahey. 2008. "Collaborative Research in Sociology: Trends and Contributing Factors". American Sociologist 39:290–306
- Smith M.J. (1988). Contemporary communication research methods. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Inc.
- Ting-Toomey, S. (1984). Qualitative research: An overview. In W.B. Gudykunst, & Y.Y. Kim (Eds.), Methods for intercultural communication research (pp. 169-184). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
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