Select appropriate methodology

Selecting the appropriate methodology is dependent on a combination of the research design and the research objective(s). What then follows is the decision to use qualitative methods, quantitative methods, or a combination of the two.


Quantitative research is a structured approach to research that produces quantifiable insights. The research typically involves collecting data from relatively large samples, and the resulting data is usually presented as numbers, and often formatted in charts or graphs. Due to the predetermined nature of quantitative research, insights are unlikely to be as detailed as qualitative research. This means that quantitative surveys need to be designed so that participants are able to respond to pertinent questions without being overly restricted by the survey content. However, the methods can be more easily replicated than qualitative research, and data tends to be easier to interpret or compare. Quantitative research can be useful for describing the patterns or profile of a population or market, as it is mainly statistical in nature.

Examples of quantitative research methods include:

  • structured surveys or interviews eg face-to-face, telephone, online, postal
  • statistical analysis of secondary (pre-collected) data.


Qualitative research is typically more unstructured than quantitative research, but nonetheless requires careful planning to produce relevant insights. It generally involves small but appropriately chosen sample(s), and the findings are usually (but not always) expressed as words or images. While the subsequent data can be more difficult to interpret than quantitative research data, the outputs often provide more detailed and penetrating insights than the more rigid quantitative research.

You may want to combine both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. For example, the Public Library Users Survey is predominantly quantitative, as it entails a self-completion survey that consists of multiple-choice questions and an open comments section. However, there is also a qualitative aspect in the comments sections which are coded by the CIPFA Research team.