Types of Qualitative and Quantitative Research Questions

Nov 9, 2017

The research process entails many different steps from selecting a methodology to reporting. An often overlooked area of the research process is the development of research questions. However, we take this part of the process very seriously and incorporate a variety of techniques and best practices in our question development— because if you don’t ask the right questions, you won’t get the right answers. Depending on whether the objective is qualitative or quantitative in nature determines which type or types of research questions should be utilized.

Quantitative Question Types

As we know, quantitative research is typically used to determine how, what, when, and where. Questionnaires for quant research are in many ways easier to develop than qual, as once you determine what you need to learn, incorporating those questions into multiple choice, single-select, grid questions, and so on, is more intuitive. Because it’s gathering larger data sets of answers, quantitative methodologies include research questions that are typically more specific:

  1. Descriptive Questions: Seek to describe the concept or topic in question. An example of this type would be understanding the usage of a product like the frequency, time of day, the purpose of use, etc.
  2. Comparative Questions: Used to analyze the difference between two groups, concepts, or other variables. Examples of these types of questions include comparing the frequency of use between two products, men versus women’s preference for brands, etc.
  3. Relationship-Based Questions: Or in some cases causal-based— these questions work to understand how one variable influences another, like how color influences the desire to purchase a particular product.

Qualitative Question Types

As we know, qualitative research is less quantifiable in nature and focuses more on discovering, understanding, and exploring meaning when it comes to an objective. Qual research questions are less direct and far more vague in nature:

  1. Exploratory Questions: Similar to descriptive questions in quant research, this form of question looks to understand something— without influencing the results with preconceived notions. For example, asking how a product is used or perceptions around a certain topic are two types of exploratory questions.
  2. Predictive Questions: As the name entails, these questions seek to understand the intent or future outcome surrounding a topic or action. An example of this type of question would include asking why a consumer behaves in a certain why or how they’d feel if a certain situation were to take place.
  3. Interpretive Questions: Look to gather feedback on a certain topic or concept without influencing the outcome. For example, testing new product concepts and understanding how messaging claims are interpreted would fall under this type.

Well written questions, regardless of the methodology, provide an easy to understand outlet for respondents to provide their answers. They should not only answer objectives but also identify problems and opportunities. The types of questions above can be used to guide the objectives and the key question of the research or be implemented throughout a questionnaire in order to provide the most relevant insights. Check out our qual and quant eGuide to learn more about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and how they can work together to build deeper insights.

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