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Types of educational research

Three commonly used research types or designs are quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research.

View a table comparing the three research approaches

Research approaches are generally categorized into quantitative and qualitative designs based upon the primary research purpose for each design.  There are four different research purposes: to explore (an attempt to generate ideas about educational phenomenon), describe (an attempt to describe the characteristics of educational phenomenon), predict (an attempt to forecast an educational phenomenon), and explain (an attempt to show why and how an educational phenomenon operates).  The table below shows the preferred research approach for each research purpose.

Because both quantitative and qualitative approaches have weaknesses that limit the research purposes for which they are appropriate, we recommend using a mixed research approach that takes advantage of the complementary strengths of the qualitative and quantitative approaches.  

Research purpose Preferred approach
Qualitative Quantitative Mixed
Explore X X
Describe X X
Predict X X
Explain X X

Page last updated: Sep 21 2011
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