Research In Brief: Describing Research Methods

In 2016 we began the Research In Focus series, highlighting new and interesting findings from NIDILRR-funded studies, presented in a reader-friendly format. As a follow up, we offer our occasional series Research In Brief, where we break down some of the terms you might find in peer-reviewed studies.

In this month’s Research in Brief, we compare different types of research studies and define terms you may see regarding how research is conducted:

  • Quantitative research involves taking measurements to compare groups of research participants, or to measure how much the participants respond to a treatment. For example, a researcher might ask participants how often they feel depressed or anxious in their everyday lives, and then ask these questions again after the participants have received a new therapy, to see how well the therapy helps them.
  • Qualitative research involves asking participants to describe their feelings or experiences in their own words. For example, a researcher might interview participants with disabilities, either individually or in a group, to learn about their experiences searching for employment.
  • A focus group is a kind of qualitative study where a researcher brings participants with similar backgrounds into a group to share their opinions. For example, a researcher might form a focus group of wheelchair users to ask them about good and bad experiences they have had with wheelchair maintenance.
  • An evidence-based practice is a program that has been tested and found to have measurable benefits for participants. For example, supported employment is an evidence-based practice because researchers have found that people who get supported employment services are more likely to find and keep jobs than people who don’t get these services. The evidence for these programs may be collected through qualitative and quantitative research methods.

Explore Research In Focus articles which use these research methods:

Quantitative studies

Better, Stronger, Faster: How Exercising Harder May Help People with Incomplete SCI Improve Their Ability to Walk

A Brief Internet-based Parent Training Program May Build Parenting Skills and Reduce Behavior Challenges in Children with Traumatic Brain Injury

Qualitative studies

What Would Help Older Adults Trust Robots to Help Them with Personal Care?

Peer Support Specialists May Offer Unique Support for People with Psychiatric Disabilities in Finding and Keeping Jobs

Focus groups

Youth and Parents Share Ideas for Supporting Healthy Lifestyles for Youth with Disabilities

Disclosing a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis at Work May Have Pros and Cons

Do you have a question about a term or concept you saw in an article? Email us at with Research In Brief Suggestion in the subject line!

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1 Response to Research In Brief: Describing Research Methods

  1. Pingback: Research in Brief: Research Designs | Collection Spotlight from the National Rehabilitation Information Center

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