In my previous blog, "Qualitative and Quantitative Research: What's What?" I explained the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. In this blog, I will discuss what kinds of research topics call for a qualitative approach and which ones, on the contrary, require a quantitative approach.

Do you want to demonstrate a change in attitude resulting from an activity, project, or program? Do you want to show significant differences and be able to generalize to the masses? And do you want to be able to make numerical statements about a specific target group? Then a quantitative method of research fits best.

Examples of research questions answered through quantitative research:

Do you need more in-depth information? Do you want to know what's behind it? And are you looking for motives?  Then qualitative research is the best method. You want answers to the Why and How Questions.

Examples of research questions answered through qualitative research:

Qualitative and quantitative research are not necessarily independent. Sometimes a research question requires a mix of both methods, where you want to know the effect; are visitors satisfied? And why are they satisfied?

In literature research, you research readily available data to formulate a problem definition. Some cases have been studied before, and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. By doing literature research, you can gather a lot of information. I will give you eleven tips for doing literature research:

  1. Much information is already available. Through literature review, you can gather a lot of information about trends, market movements, market structure, and developments without having to do the fieldwork.
  2. The literature review will form a clear purpose/research question and sub-questions that you want the answers to.
  3. Provide keywords and search terms derived from your purpose/research question. This will give you a direction to research relevant literature.
  4. Look for references and source citations to other publications in relevant articles. This will give you what is known as the snowball effect to new information.
  5. Gather current information.
  6. Turn the collected literature into one document, adding only the relevant information that answers the research question.
  7. Keep track of what information you get from where, so you and your client can see which sources were used.
  8. Mention the sources using the APA rules to avoid plagiarism.
  9. Important when you are doing desk research is to check the relevance of the data. Does this information answer your problem definition?
  10. Ensure to have multiple sources. This makes the data more reliable.
  11. Provide reliable sources, such as (scientific) articles through Google Scholar, published studies on official websites, or sources from the library.

Doing research can benefit you in many ways. You gain insights with which you can make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Provided you do it right. But if you don't, research will not (or hardly) provide you with what you want and will only cost you unnecessary time. In this blog, I will mention a few pitfalls to watch out for to help you on your way:

Want to read more about how to go through the steps of doing research properly? Then read these previously published blogs:

- How to arrive at the right research question

- How to choose a suitable research method

- How to conduct data collection?

- Tips for analyzing and reporting research

After formulating your goals, designing the research instrument, and collecting information, it is time to analyze and report the data. Some things to keep in mind when analyzing and reporting your research:

One of our most-read blogs is about the questions you should ask in a process evaluation. Such an evaluation is focused on the way you work and (have) worked together. Yet, at the start of the project, you also have questions, and in the interim and after the end of a project, you want to make the effects insightful: What is the initial situation? What assumptions have we made, and are they correct? Has the goal been achieved? To what extent has the target group been reached? What are the success factors of the project? And what are the points for improvement? During a project evaluation, you hold the result up against the light. With this information, you can improve the project and future projects. Questions you can ask during the various phases of the project:

At the start of the project


After the project is completed

Answer these questions within the project team and involve other parties, such as the focus group, collaborative partners, and other stakeholders.

Observation is a method of finding out and recording actual behavior. You choose the observation method to determine how activities, programs, or projects are received and when you want to register spontaneous reactions. While observing, you make an objective report of what you see; there is no direct contact with the respondents. I give you some tips on how to observe effectively:

  1. When observing, use an observation list. With a structured observation list, you consistently record objective information, and you can quickly analyze the collected data.
  2. While observing, show an open and inquisitive attitude. Avoid jumping to conclusions about behaviors. Make an objective report of what you see.
  3. Name or record verbatim what you actually see happening, not what you think is happening.
  4. Don't just look at random gestures. A loose gesticulation doesn't say much. Its meaning becomes understandable only when combined with other gestures and signals.
  5. Depending on the situation, make it known that you will observe people, for example, if you will follow them during the activity.
  6. Combine observations with a (short) interview to indicate what you have seen.
  7. By making many observations, you can make representative statements about your research topic or group with supporting figures.
  8. The observers should be given clear instructions so that everyone records the observed in the same way and that interpretation of observation is avoided. To make different observers equal, you can do the first observations together.
  9. When observing, you can use all kinds of technical aids. There are various tracking devices on the market, but you can also consider a stopwatch to help you measure how long someone is using something.
  10. Always observe and consider the circumstances. If someone is standing in a cold room with their arms tightly crossed, chances are they are not defensive and closed, but simply cold.
  11. Make a schedule of when to observe in advance and do so at different times under different conditions so that the picture you get is as varied and complete as possible.
  12. Disrupt the situation you are observing as little as possible. Thus, do not talk to those being observed and be as inconspicuous as possible.

There are different things to consider when organizing and conducting a group interview than during an individual interview. With group interviews, you are dealing with group dynamics. Below are 10 tips for leading a group interview:

  1. Start organizing the group discussions well in advance. You otherwise run the risk that not enough people can join. Scheduling the group interview well ahead of time increases the likelihood that everyone will attend.
  2. Make sure the minutes are written by someone who is experienced in it. Writing the minutes for a group discussion is more complicated because of the dynamics of several participants speaking.
  3. If you are not sure the reporter will be able to keep up with the live coverage, then make a video or audio recording of the interview and write out the minutes later. Ensure that the recording equipment is present and ready to use before you decide to use the equipment.
  4. Make sure your interlocutors feel comfortable. Provide them with a pleasant ambiance, something to drink, and a snack.
  5. Have everyone at the table introduce themselves so that everyone knows with whom they are sitting at the table. Create a cheat sheet with names and functions/backgrounds for the participants at the table.
  6. Make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.
  7. Pay attention to the body language of the participants.
  8. Monitor time and stick to the agreed time frames. It's disappointing when you don't get to ask all of your questions.
  9. Explain what will be done with the results of the interview. Also, explain what you will do with the minutes made of the exchange (including the audio recording). Will you be the only one who has access to these files, or will you publish it? In the latter case, make sure you get feedback on the minutes before publishing them.
  10. Summarize during the interview and relay your statement back to the group to make sure everybody understood the message the same way.


10 tips for holding a group discussion

When having a group discussion, make a map of the table with names and function as a cheat sheet

During a group discussion, make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak
Pay attention to the body language of the participants during the group discussion

Cultural Policy
Engineering policy

In my previous blogs, I explained how to determine the right research question and how to choose the proper research method. The next step in the research process is data collection. While gathering data, there are several things you need to keep in mind. I'll give you some tips:

A questionnaire is used as a measuring tool to answer your research questions. It is essential that you can use the results of the questionnaire. The quality of the questionnaire determines the quality of the data collected. It is therefore important to carefully formulate the survey questions. Here are a few tips and rules of thumb to help you formulate well-structured questions:

  1. Keep the questions simple. Don't use complex language, and consider your audience in your choice of words. For example, "What do you prefer to do in your free time?" is better than "How do you prefer to relax?
  2. Provide an unambiguous interpretation. 'I am satisfied with the quality of the exhibition' is an example of how not to do it. What is quality? The type of artwork, interactive elements, crowds, venue, the light?
  3. Formulate the question as precisely as possible. Refer to place and time and mention numbers. Try to delineate questions such as "Have you recently..." to a specific period, for example, "Have you in the past six months...".
  4. Avoid vague wording and avoid terms like ‘often’ and ‘sometimes’, also in the answer categories. Everyone interprets often and sometimes differently, so it is better to ask for a specific number of times.
  5. Avoid duplicate questions. No 'and' or 'or' in the questions. A question like "What did you think of the performance and the actors?" cannot be answered with one answer if the audience thought the performance was a little off, but the actors were excellent.
  6. Do not formulate (double) denials in the question. A negation in the question is confusing. For example, 'I am not dissatisfied with what I have seen' or 'I don't like to visit a museum.'
  7. Ask short questions.
  8. Be careful with examples in the question and suggestive questions. Chances are that the respondent may only think of these examples. This can happen with a question like 'How often do you undertake a cultural activity such as a visit to a museum or a play.' The respondent will be inclined to think that a visit to a festival or a dance performance is not part of the equation.
  9. Make sure the question measures up: The question should answer the research question. If you want to know if an exhibition inspired someone, do not ask how long they stayed. It is possible that the length of stay was longer or shorter because the respondent had to wait or had to leave earlier and had no choice.
  10. The answer categories to the questions should be mutually exclusive, and it should be clear to the respondents which answer to tick/indicate.
  11. Provide the same direction in the response order for scale questions. If at one point you are asked to rate something on a scale from totally disagree to totally agree (increasingly positive) and a few questions later on a scale from very satisfied to very dissatisfied (increasingly negative), there is a chance that people will fill this out incorrectly.
  12. For scale questions, try to keep the scale the same for each question. So do not use a scale of 1 to 5 for one question and a scale of 1 to 7 for another. This also makes it easier to analyze.
  13. See which scale fits best. A rating scale of 1 to 10 offers a lot of variation but is also more challenging to interpret (for some, a 10 is good, others think a 10 is perfect and therefore don't give it easily). A 2 (good/bad) or 3-point scale (good, average, bad) offers minimal variation and makes it harder to answer a question if it is an opinion (opinions are typically nuanced). An even scale causes a respondent to have to choose; with an odd scale, you offer the opportunity to sit safely in the middle.
  14. Also, provide the option of a reasoned non-answer, for instance, by creating an answer option like not applicable or don't know/no opinion.

For many people, when they think of a research report, unfortunately, they still think of a bulky tome that reads like an exciting book (it works slowly towards the conclusion). However, there are other ways of reporting that are becoming more popular. Depending on how much you want to broadcast the research results, below are some options:

1. A report written like a website

Another method of written reporting is to answer a research question for each chapter. Within these answers, you begin with the conclusion and then explain how the answer is composed.

2. Presentation

In addition to a written report, a presentation is also possible. Many people find it easier to listen or watch than to read. With a presentation, listeners get the opportunity to respond immediately and ask questions when something is not clear. To preserve the production, you can film it.

3. PowerPoint report

In this kind of report, the emphasis is on graphs and tables. Conclusions are stated succinctly. This is inconvenient for the author because they can add fewer words to make nuances. For the reader, it is more transparent and requires less reading. The nuances are in the graphs and tables and may therefore require some interpretation by the reader.

4. Infographic

On the Internet, infographics are increasingly common. They are informative illustrations that use text, graphs, and drawings. It is a quick way to share information.

5. Animation

To distribute research results to a broader audience, an animation film is an excellent option to tell and show information in a pleasant way and easy to distribute. By using YouTube and social media, the information can be spread widely. People will be more inclined to watch it because it is accessible and attractively presented (e.g., compared to a written report).

6. Leaflet or flyer

Another way to distribute information in an accessible and attractive form is a leaflet or flyer. The main points are summarized and attractively designed with graphics and illustrations. The advantage of a leaflet is that it can be printed and distributed physically (e.g., at a meeting) and digitally.

8. Magazine

Another approachable way to broadcast information is in the form of a magazine. The design makes the information more appealing. The method of writing in single articles and columns will make the information more accessible.

9. Article in a magazine

Writing an article and then publishing it in a magazine ensures a wide distribution of your results among your target group. Choose the magazine you want to publish in and tailor your article accordingly. An article for a trade magazine looks different than an article for a popular magazine.

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Claudia's heart is in research. With her passion, she enjoys enthusing others about research. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience. Claudia works and lives in the Netherlands, where she has been helping students and beginning researchers with research for years. Through blogs, but also with e-books, e-courses, and coaching. The first blogs are now translated into English to help more students and beginning researchers.
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