Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data in Various Research Methods

Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Qualitative data and quantitative data are both useful in research, but it is important to understand the differences between the two. Learn how to differentiate the two types of data in this lesson.

Understanding Data

Any type of research involves gathering information. This information is called data, and we typically use it to make generalizations about the subject we are researching. In order to make the correct assumptions, it is important that we understand what the data we have means and know what we can do with it.

For example, most of us know that zip codes represent geographic locations. The use of zip codes can help categorize information by location. However, it wouldn't make sense to add up a bunch of zip codes and find the average because zip codes don't measure or count anything. As this example shows, one aspect of understanding the information you are gathering is understanding the difference between qualitative data and quantitative data.

Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is data that can be separated into categories based on a characteristic. You might also hear qualitative data referred to as categorical data. Zip codes would be an example of qualitative data because they separate geographic locations into categories. Another example would be the gender of incoming freshmen at a local university. Qualitative data deals with descriptions that can be observed but not measured. Remember, qualitative refers to qualities such as color, texture, taste, or appearance.

Color is an example of a qualitative data category.

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