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Health & Social Care Research Across North East & North Cumbria.

Quantitative and Qualitative Research in Schools

Is all research the same?

Essentially, when it comes to school research projects, there are three ways in which it can be conducted. It could be a quantitative, qualitative or mixed method study,  each bringing its own set of benefits to schools and their young people.

Quantitative research in schools is ...

where researchers collect objective data from young people. 


One way they can do this is by asking them closed questions, either through a questionnaire or a survey.

These studies tend to be conducted at a larger scale to try and understand health and care at a population level.


We can collect mental health data, such as:
  • time they go to bed
  • what they eat
  • their use of social media
We can collect physical data, such as:
  • weight
  • height
  • information regarding their diet

An example of this would be a dentist coming into a school, inspecting children’s teeth and asking them about their consumption of fizzy drinks.




The job of the researcher is to try to understand what this information is telling them about that group of children. They do this through data analysis techniques using mathematical formulas to work out if there are any correlations or significance to the data they have collected.

Qualitative research in schools is ...

more aligned with talking to young people about their lives in an attempt to understand why things are happening, the data that is collected is more subjective.


It is about collecting a different sort of data and can be conducted in many different ways.

Again questionnaires with more open questions may be used as can focus groups or 1:1 interviews.

Researchers would work with schools to try and understand what a relatively small number of individuals think about a given issue. Therefore these projects are often of a smaller scale and will provide indicative evidence for a given place and time.

Another type of qualitative research is where young people are recruited to take an active part in the research as co-researchers and work with other young people in the school to collect data.

This could be through focus groups etc, or could be through unstructured conversations or creative arts-based activities where they work with other young people to explore and understand issues. The advantage of working in this way is that the findings are ‘filtered’ through the young people who are co-researchers and thus can reduce adult bias. 


The analysis of qualitative data is about trying to understand what a small group of people are telling researchers. To do this data is analysed by looking for themes within it. Researchers will often read and re-read transcripts of conversations to identify the key areas within a text. Qualitative researchers often use the language such as themes and codes etc. It is through this continuous process that findings are arrived at. 

An example of a qualitative research project could be “To understand how school-based interventions impact on mental health inequalities”. It is easy to see how using quantitative research methods to address this more subjective question could be problematic.

Mixed method research is ...

exactly what it says. It is where some of the data collected is quantitative and some is qualitative.