Types of research evidence
The type of research question you ask determines the kind of data you will gather. For example, you may collect data by conducting a survey, a focus group or undertaking an observation.
Raw data includes materials such as completed survey forms, interview transcriptions or case notes. Once this data has been collected, it must be collated into a useable format, ready for analysis. The meaning interpreted from this information becomes the evidence to support your conclusions in response to the research question.
Depending on the nature and context of your question, you may be collecting quantitative data, qualitative data or a mixture of both.
Let’s look briefly at the difference.
Quantitative research approaches require you to collect data by measuring something (an event or phenomena) and then using numbers to represent it. If you are looking for evidence to confidently solve problems relating to ‘how many?’, ‘how often?’ and ‘what?’, you need quantitative research.
Quantitative research involves using tools like surveys, questionnaires and tests. It will allow you to gather and analyse statistical data, such as percentages, frequency and averages, to support your research conclusions.
For example, a survey is a good tool to determine which brand of jelly is preferred by consumers. This may return a result that reports 55% of people surveyed preferred Watson’s Jelly over other brands.
If you’re looking to dig deeper and find out ‘how’ or ‘why’ as part of your research, then qualitative research approaches are the way to go. As the name suggests, qualitative research involves collecting descriptive information on the ‘quality’ of things, such as people’s experiences, feelings and motivations.
For example, you would need qualitative data to understand how consumers perceive Watson’s Jelly compared to other products in the market, and why they think the way they do.
Qualitative research requires you to collect evidence through approaches such as focus groups, observation, and in-depth interviews.
Which approach is best?
The type of research question you design will dictate how you gather your evidence. Both research approaches have their strengths and weaknesses, which is why many researchers use a mixed-method approach.
For example, you could hold a focus group on the brand Watson’s Jelly to discover why it holds meaning for people who buy it. You could then test the results of this through quantitative research by conducting a survey.
Regardless of the approaches and tools used, the key with formal research is to collect robust evidence systematically and analyse it methodically. Keep in mind, some data provides greater insight or a more reliable indication of what you’re trying to measure than others.
Think about the problem that you identified in the previous step, or think of an entirely new problem or question. It may be related to your own area of interest or something entirely different. Then share your opinion on the type of data that could lead to the best solution.
Tell us what the question or problem is, and answer the following questions in the comments section:
Do you think a qualitative or a quantitative research approach would be appropriate for your research question/problem?
How could a combination of methods be used to help solve different components of the problem?
Please review ideas from the rest of the class and respectfully comment on or have a discussion around each other’s choice of research approach.
© Deakin University and Griffith University