Presentation on Quantitative Study

Proposal Writing

Laura Hejl & Janna Sundeen

February 14th, 2003


              I.      What is Quantitative Research?

·        Empirical Methods

·        Empirical Statement

·        Empirical Evaluation

           II.      What are some Benefits and Problems of Quantitative Research?

         III.      What is a Quantitative Question?

·        Examples

·        Scaling:

1) Likert Scale

2) Single Item Scale

·        Bias

·        Leading questions

IV. Survey Examples


Quantitative Presentation

Laura Hejl & Janna Sundeen

University of North Dakota

February 14th, 2003


What is quantitative research?


According to Fischer, (1995) “quantitative research is defined as social research that employs empirical methods”.  He goes on to state that “an empirical statement is defined as a descriptive statement about what “is” the case in the “real world” rather than what “ought” to be the case,” (Fischer, 1995).  Typically, empirical statements are expressed in numerical terms, (Fischer, 1995).   Another factor in quantitative research is that empirical evaluations are applied.  Empirical evaluations are defined as “a form that seeks to determine the degree to which a specific program or policy empirically fulfills or does not fulfill a particular standard or norm,” (Fischer, 1995). 

As a whole, quantitative research generally focuses on measuring social reality.  Quantitative research and/ or questions are searching for quantities in something and to establish research numerically.   Royse (1999) states that the “quantitative researchers views the world as reality can be objectively determined.”  Rigidity guides the process of data collection and analysis, (Royse, 1999).

There are several types of quantitative research.  Author Patten (2000) describes 1) "survey research" as gathering information from a sample of the population with the idea that the results can be generalized to the larger population; 2) "correlational research" compares the relationship between two variables using standardized tests or scales;                          3)"experimental research" is designed to study the effects of treatment, again with the use of tests or scales for measuring treatment outcome; and finally, 4) "causal-comparative research" seeks out the causes of particular outcomes by studying the past.


What are the benefits and the problems of quantitative research?


Quantitative research can provide benefits, yet at the same time involve problems.  York, (1998) states “that quantitative methods are better suited for the precise description of social phenomena, the testing of theories already developed, or the evaluation of whether social work interventions are achieving their objectives.”  For quantitative data, analysis typically entails the calculation of both descriptive and inferential statistics, (York, 1998). Another opinion of supporting quantitative methods comes from Rodwell, (1998) who states, “The preferred method for data analysis is through quantitative/statistical methods”. 

Quantitative research can sometimes be affected by subjectivity and bias of the interviewer.  Fisher states, “Even quantification is fraught with subjective consideration in policy research”.  “Having more or less of something, for instance, does not tell us what is important”.  Is a social welfare service agency with a 100% success rate of moving clients off welfare (yet that only serves single moms), really better than a public delivery system with a 25% success rate?

Another problem related to quantitative research is bias. Within Fischer, (1995) Stone states, “numbers in policy debates cannot be understood without probing how they are produced by people; what makes people decide to count something and then find instances of it; how the measurers and measured are linked together; what incentives people have to make the numbers appear high or low; and what opportunities they have to behave strategically”.


What is a quantitative question?


The first thing to remember, as stated by Royse, (1999) is that there are plenty of social problems that need to be investigated by social workers, whether they are quantitatively or qualitatively oriented.  Author York, (1998) believes that one should not start a research project assuming they will be implementing either quantitative or qualitative research methods. York, (1998) goes on to states that “methods of observation spring from the nature of the study subject, not the other way around.

When coming up with a quantitative question you need to keep in mind “you will either have a category, or number to assign to each study participant for each variable,” (York, 1998).  Also involved with quantitative questions are methods of observation. Reliability and validity are submitted as tests to establish the credibility of the observations, (York, 1998).

In order to understand our research we must have an idea of how we are measuring our data.  One way of measuring is a method called scaling.  A scale is “a cluster or group of statements or questions (items) that are designed to measure a single concept,” (Royse, 1999).  Scales are not an uncommon measuring technique, researchers look to develop a new scale for a new research project. Scales can be developed to measure many different problems or concepts.  Royce, (1999) states that there are 320 brief scales. A popular scale that some have either used or have seen is the Likert scale which is sometimes referred to as the five-point scale, (Royse, 1999).


 The standard usage of terms is typically:

5 Strongly agree

4 Agree

3 Undecided

2 Disagree

1 Strongly Disagree


What characterizes the Likert scale is that the categories are recognizable and hierarchical.  The numerical values can create a single overall score, (Royse, 1999). Another type of scale is called a single item scale, (Royse, 1999).  (Examples in presentation)  Other characteristics of quantitative questions are those that are asking you to rate something or answer a question specifically. 

Ultimately when conducting s quantitative research study the evaluator bias will undoubtedly affect the results.  Royse, (1999) states that bias “is an outside event that tends to produce some distortion from what is actually occurring.” An example from Royse, (1999) client may fear they will lose services if they don’t tell the researcher what he/she wants to hear.  The ending result is then inaccurate, (Royse, 1999).  Other issues that can cause inaccuracy are leading questions.  Royse, (1999) states that leading questions can lead the responder into thinking along certain lines.  Ideally you then want to develop questions that are not biased or leading.  Concrete and specific question are more beneficial.


Quantitative researchers strive to be objective and specific.  Therefore, quantitative questions provide researcher with clear-cut information.  The information is generally in numerical form and at times what the researcher is ultimately looking to find.  As a whole, quantitative questions can come in a variety of forms. By implementing quantitative research studies social work has attempted to become more scientific in nature. This has benefited the profession by adding to its creditability.  Quantitative research has enabled social workers to evaluate the work they do and to demonstrate success.


Works Cited


Fischer, F.  (1995).  Evaluating Public Policy.  Australia.  Wadsworth: Thomas

Learning Center


Leighninger, L. & Popple, P. ( 2001).  The Policy Based Profession:  An

Introduction to Social Welfare Policy Analysis for Social Workers.  2nd ed. 

Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


     Patten, M. L. (2000). Proposing empirical research. Los Angeles: Pyrczak.


Rodwell, M. K.  (1998).  Social Work Constructivist Research.  New York:  Garland

Publishing Inc. 


Royce, D. (1999).  Research Methods in Social Work.  3rd ed.  Chicago, Illinois: 

            Nelson-Hall Publishers.


York, R.  (1998).  Conducting Social Work Research:  An Experiential

Approach.  Boston, MA:  Ally and Bacon.