In general there are two basic types of primary research – quantitative data collection and qualitative data collection. Quantitative data collection involves the use of numbers to assess information. This information can then be evaluated using statistical analysis which offers researchers the opportunity to dig deeper into the data and look for greater meaning (see Step 6: Analyze Data).
Certain information is by nature numerical. For example, asking a person their actual age or yearly income will result in a number. But under the right circumstances numbers can also be used to represent certain characteristics, which are not on the surface considered numerical. This most often occurs with data collected within a structured and well-controlled scientific research design. For instance, research of customers’ attitude toward a company’s products may include survey questions such as:
Place an “X” on the line that best indicates your impression of the overall quality of our company’s products:
Poor _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Excellent
In this example each line, which represents a potential customer response, could be assigned a number. For example, checking the left-most line could result in the researcher entering a “1”, the next line a “2”, the next line a “3” and so on. Once research is completed this question can undergo statistical analysis.
While quantitative analysis is potentially used for all types of research purposes (Step 1: Identify Research Purpose) it is most critical for hypothesis testing. As discussed below in Step 6: Analyze Data, such analysis may prove very relevant by allowing the researcher to draw conclusions.