develop a proposal

Develop a Research Proposal


Planning the Methodology - The Quantitative Pathway

Methodology | Student Resources | Variables

f you are on this path, you have decide that the overall design of your project will take a quantitative approach.   

As described before in Elements of the Proposal, there are four main types of quantitative research designs.  You will need to decide which one is most appropriate for your research questions.

While there are many different investigations that can be done, a study with a quantitative approach generally can be described with the characteristics of one of the following four types: 

Descriptive Descriptive research seeks to describe the current status of an identified variable or phenomenon.  The researcher does not usually begin with an hypothesis, but is likely to develop one after collecting data.  Analysis and synthesis of the data provide the test of the hypothesis.  Systematic collection of information requires careful selection of the units studied and measurement of each variable in order to demonstrate validity.


  • A description of the tobacco use habits of teenagers  
  • A description of how parents feel about the twelve-month school year
  • A description of the attitudes of scientists regarding global warming 

Correlational research attempts to determine the extent of a relationship between two or more variables using statistical data.  Relationships between and among a number of facts are sought and interpreted to recognize trends and patterns in data, but it does not go so far in its analysis to establish cause and effect for them. Data,relationships, and distributions of variables are observed only. Variables are not manipulated; they are only identified and are studied as they occur in a natural setting. 

*Sometimes correlational research is considered a type of descriptive research, and not as its own type of research, as no variables are manipulated in the study


  • The relationship between intelligence and self-esteem 
  • The relationship between diet and anxiety 
  • The relationship between an aptitude test and success in an algebra course  
  •  The covariance of smoking and lung disease   




Causal-comparative/quasi-experimental research attempts to establish cause-effect relationships among the variables.  These types of design are very similar to true experiments, but with some key differences.  An independent variable is identified but not manipulated by the experimenter, and effects of the independent variable on the dependent variable are measured. The researcher does not randomly assign groups and must use ones that are naturally formed or pre-existing groups. Identified control groups exposed to the treatment variable are studied and compared to groups who are not. 


  • The effect of an aerobic exercise program on children's rates of obesity 
  • The effect of part-time employment on the achievement of high school students 
  • The effect of age on lung capacity  

True Experimental 

Experimental research, often called true experimentation, uses the scientific method to establish the cause-effect relationship among a group of variables that make up a study.  The true experiment is often thought of as a laboratory study, but this is not always the case; a laboratory setting has nothing to do with it.  A true experiment is any study where an effort is made to identify and impose control over all other variables except one.  An independent variable is manipulated to determine the effects on the dependent variables.  Subjects are randomly assigned to experimental treatments rather than identified in naturally occurring groups


  • The effect of a new treatment plan on breast cancer  
  • The effect of a systematic preparation and support system on children who were scheduled for surgery on the amount of psychological upset and cooperation
  • A comparison of the effect of personalized instruction vs. traditional instruction on computational skill  

 You should be able to describe the variables you will use in your study

Open the file Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Quantitative Path) and save it to your computer.  Select and mark which one of the four types of research design you think your investigation will be.  Also, identify your variables in the planning guide as well. 

Now it is time to consider your actual procedure.  Most quantitative research designs use mathematical and scientific models to explain, predict, and/or control phenomena. They are concerned with collecting numerical data, and not only in mathematic and scientific investigations.  This approach can also be concerned with the measurement and statistics of attitudes, behaviors, and perceptions based on observable behavior of samples. 

Because this approach is a systematic investigation that collects numerical data to test hypotheses, it is considered empirical in nature. The hypotheses are tested by observable data from the investigation, and are either determined false or proven correct.  Data analysis and conclusions use deductive reasoning, a process where repeated observations of a phenomenon leads one to believe that there is a certain probability and predictability attached to the occurrence of that event.

What is the basic methodology for a quantitative research design?

The overall structure for a quantitative design is based in the scientific method.  The basic procedure of a quantitative design is:

  1. Make your observations about something that is unknown, unexplained, or new.  Investigate current theory surrounding your problem or issue. 
  2. Hypothesize an explanation for those observations.
  3. Make a prediction of outcomes based on your hypotheses. Formulate a plan to test your prediction.
  4. Collect and process your data. If your prediction was correct, go to step 5. If not, the hypothesis has been proven false. Return to step 2 to form a new hypothesis based on your new knowledge.
  5. Verify your findings.  Make your final conclusions.  Present your findings in an appropriate form for your audience.

Other important things to note:

The extent to which extraneous, uncontrolled or unidentified, variables have been controlled by the researcher affects the validity of the quantitative study.  Be sure to identify all variables that may have effects in an investigation and account for them in your methodology.

scientific method
student resources

Here are some great resources that may assist you in designing and completing your investigation:

Now you need to go to your planning guide to being to think about and plan for your own quantitative methodology.  There are several more steps for you to complete before you have had the chance to think through every element, but you should begin to record your ideas now.  You can continue to revise your ideas as you move through these steps.

Back to Planning the Methodology