BMY Health

Quantitative Research Methodology

Dr. Bushra Anwar (Director BMY Health, Canada)

What is Research?

Research is a way of thinking, solving problems, and unlocking undiscovered truths through collection of data.
Data can be
1. Quantifiable (Quantitative Research)
2. Non-quantifiable (Qualitative Research)

Steps of Research at a Glance

o Selection of a topic/ research question
o Literature review
o Defining the objectives
o Proposal writing and submission for ethical review
o Data collection after ethical approval
o Data Analysis and report writing
o Dissemination of results/ reports

How to Start Research

First and Most Important Step in a Research Project is….
“Topic Selection”
-Thinking of a Research Topic (Research Question)…. 


• Something I want to study
• Something needs to be studied

My Wants (Research Interests)

• My field/ speciality
• My daily life experiences
• My values, beliefs, goals

Defining Research Topic

Needs in Research (Society’s needs)

What needs to be studied for community’s problems?
What proof of needs? Any gap in literature?
• Gap in terms of
– Evidence gap?
– Population gap?
– Methodology gap?
– Temporal gap?

Not having enough ideas?

• Start Journaling- write daily life issues
• Find a question which is still unanswered in science, read literature,
attend lectures
• Consult subject experts
• Reas recommendations given in scientific articles
• Check National research priorities
• Read about local community problems in newspaper
• Attend Conferences and intellectual discussions
• Funding agencies websites

Got some Research Topic/ Question?

How to check if it is a good one?
1. FINER criteria
2. So What test

FINER = Feasible, Interesting , Novel, Ethical, Relevant

E.g. Parents’ opinion about Life skills education in secondary schools
• Feasible: yes, for me
• Interesting: yes, for my peers
• Novel : yes, I searched literature it was not previously done
• Ethical: yes, seems so, more ethical committee will tell, and for this I will send a proposal to committee
• Relevant: yes, relevant to my field and community needs

Literature Search to refine Topic

Literature Review

Purposeful and systematic review of information available on the topic of research, through searching articles or information from books. It helps us to find:
• Gap in knowledge, and thus refining topic and objectives
• Ideas for study design and questionnaire on a topic.

Literature Search Engines

Medline OR PubMed, Google scholar, Pakmedinet, Embase,CINAHL, Cochrane Library, PsycInfo, ERIC, ISI Web of Knowledge, Science Citation Index, Global Health, Global Index Medicus, Web of Science, Grey Literature,

How to do Literature review in Pubmed

Focused Searching in Pubmed

It requires understanding of:
• Field tags and Mesh terms
• Boolean operators
• Phrase searching
• Pubmed limitations

Field Tags in PubMed

Mesh terms

• Key terms/ heading words recognized by pubmed in its database are called Medical Subject Headings or MeSH.
• Mesh is a “controlled vocabulary list” of more than 26,000 subject headings, which is updated annually.
• Each article in PubMed has some 10-15 MeSH assigned to it by pubmed, which is like a keyword summary of the article.

Searching with filters

• E.g. COVID-19 [Mesh] will bring all articles in which COVID-19 is recognized as a mesh word (being the focus of study).
• COVID-19 [TI] will bring all articles in which COVID-19 is in title.
• COVID-19 [ALL] will reveal more articles, even those in which COVID-19 word is present but not as main topic or as keyword of article, butcan be anywhere in the article text.
If we don’t write Mesh or All fields, by default Pubmed will look into

More than 1 word & Boolean operators

• We can search for more than one words in an article by using boolean operators.
• AND, OR, NOT are the boolean operators used to combine or restrict search terms in PubMed. Examples:
COVID-19 AND vaccines: articles having both words.
COVID-19 OR vaccines: articles having either of the words or both words.
COVID-19 NOT vaccines: articles having COVID-19 but no vaccine word.
• Written in UPPERCASE letters
• AND is the default operator. If you add nothing, it is automatically present during processing of words.


• Some 2 word phrases are recognized by Pubmed Automatic Term Mapping ATM as Mesh term, while others not.
• E.g. ‘heart attack’ is recognized by Pubmed as Mesh term.
• In case your 2 word term e.g. ‘COVID-19 effects’ is not recognized and your search doesn’t generate a list of articles with these two words together, you can use few ways to bypass ATM and force phrasesby using the following formats:
• Enclose the phrase in double quotes: “COVID-19 effects”
• Use a hyphen: COVID-19-effects
• Use a search tag: COVID-19 effects[tw]


• Truncate: COVID-19 vaccine*
However, truncation will generate all forms of thisend word, e.g. vaccination, vaccinees, vaccinate, vaccinated etc. It is not preferred usually.

Software for Literature review

Stating a Research Question/ResearchObjective

Wording of Research Question

* Once a research question is defined, it is stated as research objective to start the proposal writing. Words should reflect the purpose/ objective/ hypothesis of the study.

What is a Research Objective?

It is the activity to be done to answer a research question and achieve aims of study.

E.g. Research question is what is the burden of diabetes in elderly population of Lahore city.
The Research Objective will be “To find the prevalence of diabetes in elderly population of Lahore city.”

Difference between research objectives and aims

• Aims address the long-term project outcomes and benefits of findings.
• Objectives address the more immediate project outcomes and describe how you are going to achieve aims and what findings you will reveal.


Research Question

  • What is the prevalence of myths of COVID-19 vaccines in our community?

Research Objective

Primary objective

  • To estimate the prevalence of myths of COVID-19 vaccines in our community.

Secondary objective

  • To determine the association between myths of COVID-19 vaccine and education of individuals.

Research  Aims

  • To increase COVID19 vaccine utilization by addressing myths related to this vaccine.

Research Objective fitting Quantitative studies

In Quantitative studies, objectives should be SMART
• Specific
• Measurable
• Achievable
• Relevant
• Time bound

“To estimate proportion of females who were counselled for contraceptive methods in Punjab.”
Specific: No. It doesn’t specify which females, where in Punjab, where approached.
Measurable: Yes
Achievable: No, because it’s not specific, and seems like females in all Punjab are target, it seems not achievable.
Relevant: Yes
Time bound: No time given

This objective needs refinement and more specification.


E.g. “To find Parents’ opinions about Life skills education in schools.”

Specific: No (it’s not mentioned which area schools, city)
Measurable: No (I will have to first ask opinions through interviews and that will be in form of words, not counts.)
Achievable: yes
Relevant: yes
Time bound: No (no time is mentioned in the statement)

This objective fits qualitative research, instead of quantitative.

What is Hypothesis

  • Sometimes in our mind we are already inclined towards a result e.g. we know that the prevalence of diabetes in our population will turn out to be more than 20%.
  • Or we know diabetes is more common among those who were born as premature babies, before doing the study. And through research we test the hypothesis.
  • Hypothesis is a formal statement that is often used to present the expected relationship between an independent and dependent
  • The hypothesis statement consists of 2 components:
  1. Null Hypothesis
  2. Alternative approach

Null hypothesis


• It is the condition of equality and   predicts that no difference or   relationship exists


•  There is no difference between

proportion of smoking in cancer and

non-cancer patients

Alternative hypothesis


•   Challenges null hypothesis and claims that difference or relationship exists

•   May be in a direction or no   direction

Example for non-directional:

•   There is a difference between proportion of smoking in cancer and non   -cancer patients

Example for directional:

•   The proportion of smoking is higher in cancer patients as compared to non-cancer patients.

Note: Once we have a research question or hypothesis in mind and we have refined it enough through literature search and passing it through FINER and SMART criteria and we finally confirm that it’s a new question which is ‘important’, then we move to the second step of designing a right study to answer the question ‘reliably’ using right methods.

Types of Research Methods

Main Types of Research

  • Qualitative Research

(choose for non quantifiable variable)


  • Quantitative Research

       (choose for quantifiable variables)

Quantitative Research

Quantitative Research methods will be discussed now. How to decide study design, sampling technique, and how to collect data and a very basic analysis will be discussed. Following is the sequence for a researcher to take decisions.

  • Study Design                         
  • Sampling
  • Data collection
  • Data Analysis
  • Dissemination of Findings
  • So starting with study design now…!
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