Quantitative methods

Advocacy campaigns often require justification through ‘rigorous’ quantitative information on large numbers of people. Quantitative methods as they are commonly conceived derive from experimental and statistical methods in natural science.

The main concern is with rigorous objective measurement in order to determine the truth or falsehood of particular pre-determined hypotheses.

  • the main focus is on measuring ‘how much is happening to how many people’.
  • the main tools are large scale surveys analysed using statistical techniques. Quantitative measurable indicators relevant to the pre-determined hypotheses are identified and combined into questionnaires.
  • questionnaires are then conducted for a random sample or stratified random sample of individuals, often including a control group.
  • causality is assessed through comparison of the incidence of the variables under consideration between main sample and control group and/or the degree to which they co-occur.
  • in large-scale research projects teams are composed of a number of skilled research designers and analysts assisted by teams of local enumerators.

Use of quantitative methods on their own have a tendency to reduce complex issues, including gender issues, to simplistic indicators chosen for ease of measurement, but which may not be the most important or relevant in planning for change.

Empowering Enquiry in Quantitative Research

All research and impact assessment methodologies, including statistical surveys, informal interviews as well as participatory methods, can be more empowering for those giving their valuable time to answering questions.

Empowering Enquiry provides simple guidelines that can underpin any methodology.

  1. Stakeholder participation
  • ensure inclusion and informed participation of the most vulnerable stakeholders
  • include these stakeholders in those stages in research where participation can be most directly empowering to them. Participation may be more important at the design, analysis and dissemination stages than the actual collection of information itself.

2) Design of questionnaires, interviews and participatory meetings to contribute to increasing people’s understanding of their situation and ways forward as well extracting information without necessarily increasing their length. Questions can be sequenced to:

  • start by clarifying the vision people have
  • celebrate what they have already achieved
  • identify challenges to further progress
  • identify clear concrete strategies for moving further along the road to their vision.

3) The research process itself aims to contribute to an ongoing multi-stakeholder learning process through:

•  building up capacities and structures for ongoing representation of poor women and men and other vulnerable people in the policy making process.

•  facilitating direct interaction between powerful stakeholders and poor people in order to break down the barriers of complacency, misinformation and prejudice which are in themselves key causes of gender inequality and poverty.

For more details see the Empowering Enquiry Toolkit:

What is Empowering Enquiry?

1: What do we want to know? Selecting Indicators
2: Whom do we ask? Sampling
3: How do we find out? Collecting Information
4:What Do We Do with it? Documentation and dissemination

Gender inequalities raise particular challenges for all types of research: participatory, quantitative and qualitative. See:

Intra-household Impact Assessment 2005

For easily accessible overviews of the strengths and pitfalls of different statistical techniques see the website for Statsoft For access to many further resources see the quantitative methods, statistics and quantitative database sections on the MathsZone and LearnStatistics.com websites.