What is the goal of practical research
Numbers, data, facts - quantitative research during the master's thesis
Quantitative research is also commonly referred to as empirical research. Here, data is collected in special, standardized procedures and statistically evaluated in order to check previously established scientific hypotheses.
As the final thesis of the degree, the master's thesis requires that an independently developed scientific question is implemented using tried and tested research methods. In order to gain new knowledge relevant to science, students not only have to be very familiar with their subject area. They also need to be familiar with common research methods in their field of study. Many departments require knowledge of empirical and statistical studies - these are used to check previously developed scientific hypotheses.
Research data can be collected in a number of ways. In addition to quantitative research, qualitative research can also be carried out. This is less fact-based and is used to create new hypotheses for science based on research. Quantitative research, on the other hand, uses statistical methods and aims to test existing hypotheses.
Quantitative research - explained quickly
What is quantitative research?
Quantitative research is based on the measurement of (mostly numerical) values. The larger the test group or sample of a quantitative measurement, the more meaningful it becomes. Results are obtained by translating scientifically verifiable characteristics into numerical values and the subsequent statistical evaluation.
What is quantitative research used for?
Quantitative research is used to check the frequencies and distributions of certain previously defined phenomena. Quantitative research can also be used to test hypotheses that have already been drawn up.
How is quantitative research carried out?
Quantitative research follows a linear system: after a hypothesis has been formulated, the method and the test subjects can be selected. The data is then collected. The evaluation of the collected data provides the basis on which the hypothesis can be tested.
What quantitative methods are there?
Quantitative research knows 4 common methods: the standardized survey, the standardized observation, the experiment and the standardized content analysis.
What are the advantages of quantitative research?
Compared to qualitative research, quantitative research stands out in that its results are by and large more reliable. In addition to this high level of reliability, quantitative research can also score points by processing large and complex amounts of data. Because the procedures are standardized, there is a high degree of comparability between different statistics and procedures.
Examples of quantitative research methods
The strength of quantitative research lies in its use of standardized procedures. Because standardized experiments and observations can be statistically evaluated, they can be used in large-scale studies. However, not every quantitative method is suitable for every subject area. The following table gives an overview of the three most common methods:
Standardized content analysis
Which data are collected?
Obtaining opinions with the help of given questionnaires
Objective descriptions based on close observation
Development of core ideas from printed or media "data carriers"
Suitable for which research topic?
Thematically limited, verbalizable research object
Research subject that cannot be verbalized, e.g. B. Symbols, body language, facial expressions, gestures
Data from textbooks, diaries, advertising, television programs, pictures
What is the goal of data collection?
Obtaining individual statements
Obtaining detailed descriptions
Analysis without subjective influence by the researcher
Quantitative research has the promise that its results will be objective and reliable. For this reason, it is used wherever hard data, numbers and facts are important. Subjects in which quantitative research is used are, for example, the social and political sciences, but also technical and natural science courses such as engineering, physics or geography, in which evidence-based research results are required.
Approach to quantitative research
The starting point of quantitative research are hypotheses that have already been drawn up in advance of the actual research and are now to be checked. For practical research, this means that a lot of preliminary work has to be done before the statistical survey: First, a research question has to be worked out, on the basis of which a hypothesis can be developed in the first place. To form hypotheses, inter alia qualitative research can be used: this is called mixed methods; Here quantitative and qualitative research are linked with one another in a goal-oriented manner.
Using the example of standardized observation, quantitative research could e.g. B. proceed as follows:
Development of a question -> operationalization / naming of comparative values -> establishment of a hypothesis -> selection of the suitable method (here: standardized observation) -> selection of persons -> data collection -> data evaluation -> analysis, interpretation and report of results
A typical procedure in quantitative research is to work with pre-prepared questionnaires. In particular, when questionnaires do not allow free text input, but rather provide possible answers, they can be statistically evaluated very well. Deviations in the sense of subjective opinions are hardly possible here. Questionnaires also make it possible to work with a larger group of test persons: questionnaires to be ticked can be evaluated quickly and easily due to the standardized answers; The more participants a study has, the more representative the result will be.
However, there are a number of standards and principles that should be followed when conducting a quantitative study. Below we list six basic principles of quantitative research, which are also of great importance for the master's thesis:
- Quantification: Quantitative research is about generating facts and figures that can be used objectively. Qualitative characteristics that are important for your math work must therefore also be translated into measurable values before you can start quantitative research.
- Hypothesis testing: One or more hypotheses are the prerequisite for empirical or quantitative research to be carried out at all. On the basis of the first theoretical findings on the topic of your master's thesis, you must first set up a testable hypothesis before you can carry out a data collection.
- Standardization: Only standardized data are comparable data. Since questionnaires work with closed questions and given answers, the collected data remains comparable and can be evaluated with statistical aids such as tables or graphics. The more precise and uniform the “rules” of the research method, the more objective, reliable and comparable the study will be.
- Objectivity: The researcher himself should not (be able to) influence the research results. A study is considered objective if the results remain unchanged regardless of the researcher.
- Reliability: The data collected must be reliable - if an experiment or an observation were repeated, the result should not change significantly.
- Validity: A study is only considered valid if the research results help answer the research question. H. valid.
The already mentioned linear structure of quantitative research consists of six sections. These take place one after the other and enable the testing of hypotheses:
- Formulation of one or more hypotheses
- Choice of procedures
- Choice of people
- Data collection
- Data evaluation
- Checking the hypothesis (s)
Preparing Quantitative Research: The Scientific Hypothesis
If you decide to use a quantitative method as part of research for your master's thesis, the first step is to create a scientific hypothesis. A distinction is made between two different types of hypotheses, namely the “if-then-hypothesis” and the “the-the-the-hypothesis”.
- "If-then-hypothesis", also hypothesis of difference: the "if" stands for a cause or condition, the "then" for an effect.
- “The the more hypothesis”, also related hypothesis: The “Je” forms the independent variable that has a positive effect on the “Desto”, the dependent variable.
Beyond the distinction between different types of hypotheses, care must be taken when formulating the hypothesis that these
- is refutable
- can be traceably derived
- has general validity
- does not contradict another hypothesis
- can be operationalized, d. H. an empirical observation is associated with every statement.
Select a method for quantitative research
Once you have developed and formulated a suitable hypothesis that you would like to check in the course of your research, the next step is to determine the quantitative method. The standardized survey method is used particularly frequently in empirical research - it is relatively uncomplicated and quick to carry out and promises valid, objective results.
Each research method in turn offers different research design options: To stick to the example of the standardized survey, the following designs are possible:
- written questioning of individual persons
- oral questioning of individuals
- one-time survey of a group
- Comparison of different, given groups
- Before and after questioning of a person or group
- Before and after questioning with the help of a control group
Practical tip: The survey is also a popular tool in qualitative research: Therefore, a clear distinction must be made between the methods in the form of the survey - questions in quantitative research must be asked in a closed form, while a qualitative interview also allows open questions.
As a counter-example to the standardized survey, we consider standardized observation. The aim here is to collect objective observations that are not influenced by the researcher. These follow a systematic, targeted process, which, however, requires some preliminary considerations:
- First, hypotheses on the research question must be formulated
- necessary definitions of terms must be compiled
- the content of the observation must be determined
- the observation process must be defined (who is observing what, when and under what circumstances?)
- it must be specified in which form the data will be collected so that they can then be evaluated
Finally, the standardized content analysis is another method that can be used to achieve quantitative results. This method is used when texts, films, sound recordings or images are the subject of research. Again, there are several approaches, e.g. B. the evaluation analysis or the contingency analysis. Based on defined characteristics, the researcher can draw conclusions about the source, the originator and the recipient using the standardized content analysis.
Data collection in the context of quantitative research
The data collection for quantitative research is always carried out according to standardized specifications. A popular (and proven) means is the creation of a questionnaire that uses closed questions and given answer options to produce comparable research results. As with any research method, certain aspects must be taken into account when creating a questionnaire:
- clearly and unambiguously formulated questions and answers
- concrete formulation of the questions in order to receive clear answers
- precise, easily understandable instructions for the individual questions
- limited scope of questions and questionnaire
- easy handling for the respondent
- logical, in the best case sequential order of the questions
- Answers formulated appropriately for the content
- Use of answers that are used for evaluation
In order for the questionnaire to be representative, it must also contain questions about the personal data of the respondent, without the name or exact data such as date of birth or address having to be given. While maintaining anonymity, for example age, gender, origin or education are queried.
Practical tip: When creating a questionnaire, avoid anything that can confuse the respondent, e.g. B. awkward formulations, excessively long sentences, double negations and rhetorical questions.
Data evaluation with regard to scientific hypotheses
Many students have great respect for the evaluation of quantitatively collected data. This is because, in most cases, this data has to be evaluated using statistical tools. On the one hand, this is faster than manual evaluation, but in the course of their studies, many students do not get to know the necessary insight into statistics in order to be able to carry out such an evaluation themselves.
In order to evaluate the quantitative data of your master’s thesis in a targeted manner, various evaluation methods are possible, e.g. B .:
- Inferential statistics: testing a hypothesis and applying a small sample to an entire population
- Descriptive statistics: Clear presentation of the data in the form of tables and graphics. The evaluation takes place, among other things. by determining average values, processes and frequencies.
Differentiation from qualitative research
Quantitative and qualitative research differ in the way in which data are collected, but also in their analysis. With regard to the scientific benefit of research, a distinction must also be made between the research object, the research method and the understanding of science.
The differences between the two research methods can be shown as follows:
The data is collected ...
in the laboratory and in closed form
in a natural setting and in an open process
The research logic aims at ...
large samples that can be generalized
small, individual samples
The alignment is ...
particular (concerning a part that is based on a sample)
holistic (based on individual cases)
The aim of the research is ...
the final procedure of logical derivation (deduction) = statistical generalization
the final procedure of the analytical derivation (deduction) = theoretical generalization
The research process is ...
explanatory by testing hypotheses
understanding by developing hypotheses
The desired research results for a specific research question cannot always be achieved exclusively with quantitative or qualitative methods. Often, individual processes cannot even be completely differentiated from one another. A combination within the framework of the so-called mixed methods is also not uncommon: For example, a qualitative research section can be used to develop hypotheses, which are then checked for validity using quantitative methods.
In order to weigh the advantages of quantitative research against those of qualitative research when planning your master’s thesis, the research object and the goal of the research should be examined more closely: If the content of the research object remains unchanged even after quantification, a quantitative method is available Research on. Even if the scientific insight that is to be gained into a topic is rather broad, the advantages of quantitative research predominate. Qualitative research, on the other hand, should be chosen if a deep, individually colored insight into the topic of the master's thesis is to be undertaken.
Advantages and disadvantages
Each research method has advantages and disadvantages. There are good reasons for both the quantitative and the qualitative methods, which often depend on the research subject and the research question. The benefits of quantitative research include:
- Precision, comparability and stringent structuring through specific, closed questions and answers
- Fast processing of even large amounts of data thanks to standardized question forms
- higher reliability (reliability)
However, there are of course some drawbacks to quantitative research as well. These include the overall rather abstract, dry form of research, the limitation of the possible answers to a given selection and the need for extensive preparatory work in order to be able to create a questionnaire at all.
- The quantitative research follows a linear process and is based on an experimental test setup. The research logic aims to check hypotheses that have already been made with the help of statistical values.
- It is used when the frequency or distribution of a certain phenomenon is to be investigated, when there is sufficient prior knowledge to formulate a hypothesis, and when this hypothesis can be tested, i. H. is refutable.
- As part of the mixed methods, quantitative research can be combined with qualitative research.
- The large amount of time required, which is derived from large random samples, should be considered in advance and discussed with the academic supervisor.
- The six principles of quantitative research must also be observed: quantification, hypothesis testing, standardization, objectivity, reliability and validity.
- The most common quantitative research methods are standardized survey and standardized observation. In addition, the experiment and standardized content analysis can also be used for quantitative research.
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