Quantitative Research Methods

[Description] [Pros] [Cons] [Common Uses] [Resources]


Use quantitative research methods in market research when:

  • You want to know “how many” and/or “how often”
  • You want to profile a target audience by determining what proportion of the audience has certain behaviors, behavioral intentions, attitudes, and knowledge related to the health concern, and whether specific determinants predict behaviors at a statistically significant level.

You conduct quantitative market research generally involves:

  • Surveying a large group of people (usually several hundred), and
  • Using a structured questionnaire that contains predominantly closed-ended, or forced-choice, questions.

To design and conduct a quantitative survey, you should consider getting input from a survey expert. Together you will need to consider issues related to designing an appropriate sample, using valid and reliable measures, and conducting a pretest before the survey study is launched. Most surveys are custom studies designed to answer a specific set of research questions. Some surveys are omnibus studies, in which you add questions about your topic to an existing survey.

Surveys can be conducted face-to-face, by mail or telephone, or by computer. They can be self-administered or administered by an interviewer. Tools such as computer-assisted telephone interviewing or touch-screen surveys via a Web site can be useful.


  • When the survey involves a convenience sample (e.g., a mall intercept study), data can be collected and analyzed fairly quickly
  • When the survey involves a statistically valid random sample, the results from the sample can be generalized to the entire population if the response rate is high enough
  • Surveys can provide reliable (i.e., repeatable) direction for planning programs and messages
  • Surveys can be anonymous, which is useful for sensitive topics
  • Like qualitative research methods, surveys can include visual material and can be used to pretest prototypes
  • You can generalize your findings beyond your participant group.


  • They have a limited ability to probe answers
  • People who are willing to respond may share characteristics that don’t apply to the audience as a whole, creating a potential bias in the study
  • They can be very costly.

Common Uses

  • Assess the proportion of your target audience within a community
  • Assess the proportion of a target audience that practices a behavior
  • Assess the proportion of a target audience that recalls a message.


To compare qualitative and quantitative methods, see the Qualitative/Quantitative Comparison Chart.

Scroll to your method of interest in the Tools for Research.