develop a research proposal

Develop a Research Proposal


Writing the Proposal - Data Collection

An examination of the quantitative and qualitative approaches will help to identify their strengths and weaknesses and how their different approaches can complement each other. Many researchers, however, recognize that each approach has positive attributes, and that combining different methods can result in gaining the best of both research worlds.

For example, quantitative research uses methods adopted from the physical sciences that are designed to ensure objectivity, generalizability and reliability. For example, these techniques cover the ways research participants are selected randomly from a medical study population in an unbiased manner, the standardized intervention they receive and the statistical methods used to test predetermined hypotheses regarding the relationships between specific variables. The researcher is considered external to the actual research, and results are expected to be replicable no matter who conducts the research.

The strengths of the quantitative design are that its methods produce quantifiable, reliable data that are usually generalizable to some larger population. Quantitative measures are often most appropriate for conducting needs assessments or for evaluations comparing outcomes with baseline data. This design, however, breaks down when the phenomenon under study is difficult to measure or quantify. The greatest weakness of the quantitative approach is that it ignores human behavior in a way that removes the event from its real world setting and ignores the effects of variables that have not been included in the model.

Then qualitative research methodologies are designed to provide the researcher with the perspective of target audience members through direct interaction with the people under study. Qualitative methods used in medical studies can include observations, in-depth interviews and focus groups. These methods are designed to help researchers understand the meanings people assign to social phenomena and to pull out the mental processes underlying behaviors. Hypotheses are generated during data collection and analysis, and measurement tends to be subjective. In the qualitative approach, the researcher becomes the instrument of data collection, and results may vary greatly depending upon who conducts the research.

The advantage of using qualitative methods is that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide a context for health behavior. The focus upon processes and "reasons why" differs from that of quantitative research, which addresses correlations between variables. A disadvantage is that data collection and analysis may be labor intensive and time-consuming. In addition, these methods are not yet totally accepted by the mainstream research community and qualitative researchers may find their results challenged as invalid.

Because there are many ways in which a method can be used to create qualitative or quantitative data, all instrumentation and specific methodologies are grouped together and are not divided by qualitative or quantitative.  Each method will be discussed; however it will be up to you, as the researcher, to decide on the type of data you would like to produce.  Mixed methodology, of both approaches, sometimes is the best approach of all.

As you explore and consider each of the elements of your methodology using the links below, remember to fill in the appropriate sections of your planning guide, Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Qualitative) or Crafting the Proposal:  III. The Methodology (Quantitative) depending upon which methodology you've chosen.


Data Collection Instrumentation

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