Study design in quantitative research is the method by which researchers plan how they will answer their research question using quantitative data. ‘Quantitative data’ is information that can be counted or measured.

There are five key questions which must be considered when designing a quantitative research study:

What is my research question?

A research question is the question a study tries to answer. Examples of  research questions include:

  • What is the impact of a shared sanitation intervention on quality of life and mental well-being in low-income urban neighbourhoods in Mozambique? (Ross et al., 2022)
  • What is the impact of physical activity immediately prior to standardised testing on student test-taking behaviours? (Thompson et al., 2016)

Research questions are explored further on the Research Questions content page.

Who should be involved in my study?                                                                                

The next step is to identify the population for the research study. For example, if a researcher would like to learn more about the impact of physical activity on student test-taking behaviour, their population of interest may be adolescents enrolled in public schools in their area. More information about the sampling and recruitment processes can be found on the Sampling and Sample Size Calculations and Recruitment content pages.

What information is already available or could be collected to answer my research question?

The information used to answer a quantitative research question is called quantitative data. Some quantitative research questions may be answered using data which is already available from previous studies. Other research questions may require the collection of new data using tools such as surveys.

What methods will I need to use in the study?

In quantitative research, there are a variety of study design and analysis methods which can be used for answering research questions. Each method has strengths and weaknesses which impact what conclusions can be made after the study is completed.

What resources do I have to complete the study?

Depending on your quantitative study design, you will require different amounts of resources, most importantly time and money. For example, a cohort study usually occurs across several years and involves the recruitment of many participants. In contrast, a cross-sectional survey would require less time and fewer resources. Being realistic about your budget and time constraints before beginning the study is essential.

(Author: Madison Wempe)

What is it?

Videos:

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Quantitative vs. qualitative research: The differences explained by Scribbr (2019)

This video highlights key differences between quantitative and qualitative research. It explains when it is best to use each type of research.

(Academic reference: Scribbr. (2019, November 15). Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research: The Differences Explained [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-XtVF7Bofg)

Blogs:

What is quantitative research? | Definitions & methods by Pritha Bhandari (2022)

This blog post introduces the concept of quantitative research. It briefly describes quantitative research methods and analysis strategies. The blog post concludes by describing advantages and disadvantages of quantitative research.

(Academic reference: Bhandari, P. (2022, April 4). What is Quantitative Research? | Definitions & Methods. Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.co.uk/research-methods/introduction-to-quantitative-research/)

Books:

Quantitative research for the qualitative researcher by Laura M. O’Dwyer and James A. Bernauer (2014)

This textbook is meant to bridge the divide between qualitative and quantitative researchers. It compares the two styles of research and introduces the design of qualitative and quantitative studies.

(Academic reference: O’Dwyer, L. & Bernauer, J. (2014). Quantitative research for the qualitative researcher. Sage.)

How is it done?

Videos:

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How to write a research methodology in 4 steps by Scribbr (2020)

This short video presents four things to consider when describing the design of a research study: the type of research, the collection and analysis of data, tools and materials used in the research, and rationale.

(Academic reference: Scribbr. (2020, June 12). How to Write a Research Methodology in 4 Steps [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yplWZs3dqNQ)

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Quantitative research designs: Descriptive non-experimental, quasi-experimental or experimental? By NurseKillam (2013)

This short video introduces different categories of quantitative research study designs: descriptive non-experimental, quasi-experimental, and experimental.

(Academic reference: NurseKillam. (2013, November 13). Quantitative Research Designs: Descriptive non-experimental, Quasi-experimental or Experimental? [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10nMNh3RMp0)

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Introduction to research methods and methodologies by University of Liverpool online Centre for Student Success (2018)

This 30-minute video discusses study design and research methods in the context of the University’s final research project but is helpful to a broader audience. It compares research methods, provides instructions for how to choose a methodology, and introduces the ethical considerations of research design.

(Academic reference: University of Liverpool Online Centre for Student Success. (2018, June 27). Introduction to Research Methods and Methodologies [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nv7MOoHMM2k)

Websites:

Research design | Step-by-step guide with examples by Scribbr (2022)

This video series provides a step-by-step guide through the study design process from considering your aims and approach to deciding on your analysis strategies.

(Academic reference: McCombes, S. (2022, May 5). Research Design | Step-by-step Guide with Examples. Scribbr. https://www.scribbr.co.uk/research-methods/research-design/)

Manuals & Guides:

Research guides: Organizing your social sciences research paper by USC Libraries (n.d.)

This library research guide offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organise, and write a research paper using quantitative methods. It defines quantitative research and its characteristics, introduces basic research design principles, and presents strengths and weaknesses of using quantitative research.

(Academic reference:  USC Libraries. (n.d.). Research Guides: Organizing Your Social Sciences Research. USC Libraries. https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/quantitative)

Method in action

Podcasts:

More research required by Amy Giacomucci and Abby Norling-Ruggles (2017-2018)

On More Research Required, ‘two liberal arts college grads design all the research studies that no one will pay them to do.”’Topics range from the influence of current events on new-born name popularity to the impact of flexible work schedules on health and mood.

(Academic reference: Giacomucci, A. & Norling-Ruggles, A. (Hosts). (2017-2018). More Research Required [Audio Podcast]. Player FM. https://player.fm/series/more-research-required)

Articles:

Impact of a sanitation intervention on quality of life and mental well-being in low-income urban neighbourhoods of Maputo, Mozambique: An observational study by Ian Ross, Giulia Greco, Zaida Adriano, Rassul Nala, Joe Brown, Charles Opondo, and Oliver Cumming (2022)

This article describes a quantitative research study to assess the impact of a shared sanitation intervention on quality of life and mental well-being in Maputo, Mozambique. Study authors used a non-randomised controlled trial design and a survey to compare individuals living in communities with and without the intervention.

(Academic reference: Ross, I., Greco, G., Adriano, Z., Nala, R., Brown, J., Opondo, C. & Cumming, O.  (2022). Impact of sanitation intervention on quality of life and mental well-being in low-income urban neighbourhoods of Maputo, Mozambique: an observational study. BMJ Open, 12(10), e062517. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2022-062517)

The impact of moderate-vigorous intensity physical education class immediately prior to standardized testing on student test-taking behaviors by Hannah R. Thompson, Jessica Duvall, Ryan Padrez, Natalie Rosekrans, and Kristine A. Madsen (2016)

This article describes a quantitative research study to assess the impact of physical activity on student test-taking behaviours. Study authors used a cluster randomised controlled study design. They used student and teacher surveys to assess test anxiety and test-taking behaviours.

(Academic reference: Thompson, H. R., Duvall, J., Padrez, R., Rosekrans, N. & Madsen, K. A. (2016). The impact of moderate-vigorous intensity physical education class immediately prior to standardized testing on student test-taking behaviors. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 11, 7-12. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2022-062517)

The silence of mental health issues within university environments: A quantitative study by Dianne Wynaden, Margaret McAllister, Jenny Tohotoa, Omar Al Omari, Karen Heslop, Ravani Duggan, Sean Murray, Brenda Happell, Louise Byrne (2014)

This article describes a descriptive study which was used to examine the experiences and attitudes of University staff and students towards mental health problems.

(Academic reference: Wynaden, D., McAllister, M., Tohotoa, J., Omari, O. A., Heslopr, K., Duggan, R., Murray, S., Happell, B. & Byrne, L. (2014). The silence of mental health issues within university environments: A quantitative study. Archives of Psychiatric Nursing, 28(5), 339-344. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apnu.2014.08.003)