In quantitative research, data collection and measurement is done for a specific purpose. For this purpose, instruments are used whose purpose is to express in a quantitative way what is being investigated.
For example, in sciences such as physics and geology, the characteristics of the phenomena are expressed through measurement through an established language for each of these sciences.
However, social sciences need measurement to quantitatively express their objects or phenomena of study.
In this publication we will focus on the measurement and collection of quantifiable data in the social sciences.
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What role does measurement play in the social sciences?
The purpose of the measurement is to express numerically the abstract contents of the research.
This is because the different sciences and disciplines belonging to the social sciences abound in abstract information.
These contents can be concepts, opinions, beliefs and perceptions, whose quantification is carried out through data collection and measurement instruments.
These instruments are intended to quantify the information corresponding to each variable in the research process of a social science.
In this sense, the measurement gives a quantitative sense to this type of information.
Variables can be measured through measuring instruments regardless of whether there are hypotheses or not.
There are investigations in which hypotheses are lacking and in fact specific variables are measured.
What should be taken into account when designing a data collection and measurement instrument in quantitative research?
The data collection instruments must correspond to a certain degree of reliability and validity.
In this way, their aptitude to be used in an investigation pertaining to the area of social sciences is guaranteed.
Reliability is manifested when an instrument is capable of delivering consistent and meaningful results within the framework of research objectives.
Similarly, the validity is expressed when the instrument has the capacity to measure the variables that the research aims to address.
What are the data collection instruments available for the social sciences?
There are many types of data collection instruments. In some investigations, more than one of them is used, because each instrument has limits as to the information that it is proposed to investigate.
Some examples are:
Scales for measuring and recording attitudes
There are scales that allow us to measure behaviors.
The behaviors have characteristics and obey individual perceptions.
For example, the degrees of greater or lesser expression of an attitude are part of its characteristics and can be measured.
A scale seeks to quantify those degrees of expression.
In this way, the researcher has information that can be translated into statistics or data whose subsequent development leads to establish conclusions about the investigation.
That is why measurement scales become a useful tool for data collection in the case of researches that investigates social behaviors and individual or collective behaviors.
You can also record perceptions, opinions, feelings and human valuations regarding phenomena, characters or groups.
There are scales such as the Likert scale, Guttman scaling and the semantic differential.
Instruments belonging to the disciplines
The instruments of each discipline are developed to meet methodological needs.
First, the disciplines have developed their own instruments whose purpose is to address specific study problems that cannot be investigated with pre-existing instruments.
Similarly, it also happens that researchers may realize that there are no instruments to address a particular variable and design a new one.
The purpose of the observation is to classify a series of behaviors or their aspects into categories.
In this publication we talk more about observation in quantitative research.
It should be noted that the observation uses instruments to record the information.
Thus, with the registration and categorization of the information, statistical analyzes of the data collected can be performed.
Quantitative Content Analysis
They allow to analyze communicative processes categorizing and quantifying the messages that are emitted.
For this reason, messages classified into categories and subcategories can be quantified and then analyzed statistically.
They are frequently used to analyze content broadcast in the media.
Likewise, content analysis consists of an appropriate instrument to analyze the content of advertising campaigns.
They can also be used to address political campaigns, study language jargon and analyze vocabulary in certain contexts.
They are characterized by containing open or closed questions that the recipients answer.
In this sense, the questionnaires establish a series of elaborated questions taking into account the problem statement and the research objectives.
In the same way, the questions of the questionnaires develop the inquiry in relation to one or more variables that the researcher is studying.
The fact that the questions are open or closed will respond to the purposes of the researcher and the previous work it has done in its research work.
Review of secondary sources
It consists of the information available in different secondary sources from which we can obtain data.
For example, reports of organizations, publications of government institutions and data collected by other researchers.
Likewise, physical and public records of government agencies, health centers belong to this category.
In this sense, not only physical files are used, it is also possible to use electronic documents.
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