The conduction of every research is usually intertwined with the same research process that involves several steps. Firstly, it is important to understand and define a problem that will be the focus of the study. Then a researcher usually reviews the existing literature on the topic. It is helpful in terms of acquiring a better understanding of the topic and identifying the ‘gaps’ in the existing knowledge that are to be filled. As a result of the literature review, a researcher formulates a hypothesis or a research question, depending on the methodology that he or she plans to use in the study. The next step is developing the research design. This step incorporates choosing the data collection methods that will be used, the types of materials that are to be collected etc. The data collection stage is perhaps one of the most important, given that it provides a researcher with the needed materials that should be analyzed afterwards. After the requited data has already been collected, the researcher analyzes it with the help of a method that he or she had previously chosen, and develops the respective conclusions.
Almost every sociological research incorporates the usage of theories, concepts, and variables. Usually theories propose explanations to different sociological phenomena, as well as make general predictions of what form these phenomena will have in future (Rohall, Milkie & Lucas, 2014). In order to verify a theory, one should test sociological hypotheses that evolve from the theory (Rohall, Milkie & Lucas, 2014). However, quantitative research usually incorporates research questions, but not hypotheses. While hypothesis is the statement regarding the relation between two or more variables that needs to be confirmed or refuted, a research question is a question that needs to be answered as a result of the study. As noted above, research questions are usually used as a part of qualitative methodology, while hypotheses are developed by a research to conduct a quantitative study.
There are two major approaches to scientific research that include different methods of data collection – qualitative methods and quantitative methods. When qualitative methods aim to study society ‘in-depth’ (and thus incorporate smaller samples), quantitative methods seek to measure behavior, values etc of people in the quantitative way (and thus usually incorporate big samples). In such researches, quantitative methods provide a concrete piece of statistics or data, and qualitative methods propose an explanation to it. Data in quantitative research are analyzed through numerical comparison, and are reported through statistical analysis (Minichiello et al, 1990), while in qualitative research data is usually reported in the form of findings under each main research category. Quotes are often used to provide the illustration to the findings.
As to the types of data collection used in health care research, the qualitative methods include field research, in-depth interviews, content analysis (this method can also be quantitative, though), focus groups, narrative analysis etc. Quantitative research methods used in health care research are the following – survey research and experiments. Given that qualitative and quantitative methods seek to measure different aspects of social phenomena, the most effective is the research where both qualitative and quantitative methods are incorporated. It is also important to note that each of these methods has its advantages and disadvantages, and thus the choice of research method is an important part of scientific research that should be based on the research question or hypothesis.
One more important part of scientific research is sample. Given that a researcher usually do not have enough financial and time resources to study every single individual within the population, it is important to choose a small group of people that has more or less ‘typical’ characteristics for a concrete society, and thus reflects the thoughts, values, behavior and other characteristics of general population. In quantitative research, there are different types of sampling methodologies. The most widely used include the probability samples, such as the simple random sampling, systematic sampling, stratified sampling, cluster sampling etc (Minichiello et al, 1990). Probability sampling is often considered to be the best approach, given that random events are predictable. The qualitative methodology usually uses the non-probability samples, such as the convenience method, the snowball method etc. Regardless of the fact that these sampling methods do not give a researcher the opportunity to spread the findings of the study on general population, they are helpful in terms of understanding the issue ‘in-depth’.
As noted above, data in quantitative research are analyzed through numerical comparison, and are reported through statistical analysis (Minichiello et al, 1990). There are three major types of statistical analysis – univariate, bivariate, and multivariate. The use of these types of analysis depends on the number of values involved in the study. Namely, univariate analysis is the simplest form of analysis. It is used in a situation when only one variable is involved. Bivariate statistical analysis involves the analysis of two variables in order to confirm or refute the hypothesis about the relationship between them. Finally, the multivariate analysis covers cases when the observation of more than one outcome variable is needed. Factor analysis is one of the most popular types of multivariate analysis, given that it helps to understand he latent relationship among different variables.
- Minichiello, V., Aroni, R., Timewell, E., & Alexander, L. (1990). In-depth Interviewing: Researching people. Hong Kong: Longman Cheshire Pty Limited.
- Rohall, D.E., Milkie A. M. & Lucas J.W. (2014). Social Psychology, 3rd Ed. New York: Pearson.