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PER Research Methods

This is an overview of research methods in the context of designing a PER study. See also the research tools page to learn more about specific resources you should have on-hand for conducting research.

This page is a work-in-progress. Last updated 8/15/18.


Types of data

One of the earliest steps in creating a research project is to decide what type of data to collect. Knowing what type of data you will collect will help guide the rest of your research design.

Generally, data is identified as either qualitative or quantitative.

Qualitative data

Qualitative data are information that is not easily scaled or assigned numerical values. Qualitative data are often descriptive, and can include descriptions of events, behavior, thoughts, or feelings. These descriptions may be generated by a researcher or observer, or contributed by a person responding to a research instrument.

Qualitative data may be analyzed with a wide variety of approaches. Researchers may look for key words or phrases, or group responses by common ideas. The assessment of qualitative data is often called "coding." Common ideas that are evident in the data are often called "codes."

Examples of qualitative data are open-ended survey questions, observations, or interviews.

Quantitative data

Quantitative data are information that can be scaled or assigned numerical values. Numerical values may be direct measurements, such as counting. Numerical values may also be generated "artificially" by using, for example, Likert scale survey responses. In a Likert scale, people respond to prompts on a given scale of "severity." Each level on the scale is assigned a number to identify it in analysis.

Quantitative data is typically analyzed using statistical methods.

Examples of quantitative data are surveys or exam results.