Types of educational research
Three commonly used research types or designs are quantitative, qualitative, and mixed research.
- Quantitative research follows a deductive research process and involves the collection and analysis of quantitative (i.e., numerical) data to identify statistical relations of variables. Common quantitative research methods include: content (relational) analysis, experiments, observations (scaled ratings, checklists), and surveys (closed-ended, validated scales)
- Qualitative research follows an inductive research process and involves the collection and analysis of qualitative (i.e., non-numerical) data to search for patterns, themes, and holistic features. Common qualitative research methods include: content (conceptual) analysis, focus groups, observations (narrative, comments), interviews, and surveys (open-ended).
- Mixed research combines or mixes quantitative and qualitative research techniques in a single study. Two sub-types of mixed research includes mixed method research—using qualitative and quantitative approaches for different phases of the study—and mixed model research—using quantitative and qualitative approaches within or across phases of the study.
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|