Quantitative research: Definition, characteristics, benefits, limitations, and best practices

quantitative research


Quantitative research characteristics

Benefits and limitations

Best practices for quantitative research



Researchers use different research methods as research is carried out for various purposes. Two main forms of research, qualitative and quantitative, are widely used in different fields. While qualitative research involves using non-numeric data, quantitative research is the opposite and utilizes non-numeric data. Although quantitative research data may not offer deeper insights into the issue, it is the best practice in some instances, especially if you need to collect data from a large sample group. Quantitative research is used in various fields, including sociology, politics, psychology, healthcare, education, economics, and marketing.

Earl R. Babbie notes: "Quantitative methods emphasize objective measurements and the statistical, mathematical, or numerical analysis of data collected through polls, questionnaires, and surveys, or by manipulating pre-existing statistical data using computational techniques. Quantitative research focuses on gathering numerical data and generalizing it across groups of people or to explain a particular phenomenon."


Quantitative research characteristics

Below are some of the characteristics of quantitative research.

Large sample size

The ability to use larger sample sizes is undoubtedly one of the biggest perks of quantitative research.


Due to its quantitative nature, the data gathered through quantitative data collection methods is easily measurable.

Close-ended questions

Quantitative research utilizes close-ended questions, which can be both beneficial and disadvantageous.


Since it doesn't involve open-ended questions, quantitative research results can be used in other similar research projects.


Quantitative data is considered more reliable since it is usually free of researcher bias.


Quantitative research uses larger sample sizes, so it is assumed that it can be generalized easily.


Benefits and limitations

Since quantitative research relies on data that can be measured, there are a lot of benefits offered by quantitative methods.

Quantitative research benefits

  • Easier to analyze

Analyzing numeric data is easier; in that context, quantitative research can bring large amounts of data in a short period. There is numerous quantitative data analysis software that lets the researcher analyze the data fast.

  • Allows using large sample sizes

Quantitative research involves using close-ended questions or simple "yes and no" questions. Therefore, it is easier to analyze quantitative data. In that sense, it can be distributed to practically as many people as you can. A large sample size usually means more accurate research results.

  • More engaging

As quantitative research questions don't feature open-ended questions, participants are more eager to respond to questions. With open-ended qualitative questions, participants sometimes need to write a wall of text, and that is undesirable for many of them. It is easier to choose "yes or no" as it doesn't require much effort. A more engaging research survey means more feedback.  

  • Less biased and more accurate

Qualitative research uses open-ended questions, and since the feedback is often open to interpretation, researchers might be biased when analyzing the data. That is not the case with quantitative research, as it involves answers to preset questions. Less biased data means more accurate data.

  • Needs less time and effort

In all stages of research, quantitative research requires much less time and effort when compared with qualitative research. With different software, it is possible to create, send and analyze a huge volume of quantitative data in just a few clicks. Unlike qualitative in-depth interviews that usually require participants to be in a specific office, quantitative research isn't geographically bound to any location and can be carried out online.


Quantitative research limitations

  • Limited information on the subject - 

Using close-ended questions means there isn't much to interpret. It doesn't allow the researcher to get answers to "why" questions. If you want to get in-depth information on the subject, you need to carry out qualitative research.

  • Can be costly

Although it allows the researcher to reach a higher sample size, finding a large number of participants is expensive, considering you have to pay each participant.

  • Difficulty in confirming the feedback

Quantitative research doesn't usually involve observing participants or talking with them about their answers; therefore, it is difficult to guess if the data gathered from them is accurate all the time. With qualitative methods, you get a chance to observe participants and ask follow-up questions to confirm their answers.


Best practices for quantitative research

What kind of research do you need?

It may sound too obvious, but you may want to think about the type of research you need to carry out before you start with one. Sometimes quantitative research is not the best practice for a given subject, and you may need to go with qualitative research.  

Clear research goals

Setting a research goal is the first thing every researcher does before setting out to carry out actual research. The success of the research hugely depends on the clearly defined research goals. In other words, it's a make or break point for most research projects. Having confusing research goals is what usually fails the entire project and results in a loss of time and money.

Use user-friendly structure

When creating your surveys and questionnaires, use a user-friendly layout and keep it simple, so it's more engaging for the users. A lot of software offers simple survey templates that you can use effectively.

Choose the right sample

Although quantitative research allows the research to use large sample sizes, it is essential to choose the right sample group. The sample group you're trying to get feedback from may not represent your target audience. Therefore, think twice before allocating resources to gathering data from them.

Pay attention to questions

Quantitative research uses closed-ended questions, which means you need to be very careful with the questions you choose. One of the benefits of quantitative research is that it gives you the ability to predetermine the questions, so you need to use this chance and think about the best possible questions you may use for a better result. With quantitative research questions, you usually don't get a chance to ask follow-up questions.

Let your bias out of the research

We already mentioned that quantitative research is less biased than qualitative research, but it doesn't mean that it's completely free of bias. In this form of research, bias comes with specifically designed questions. The researcher may frame the questions in a way that the feedback may reflect what the researcher wants. In that sense, it is important to leave all the biased questions out you feel can alter the end result of the research.