The Difference Between Qualitative & Quantitative Measurement

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  • 0:07 Measurement
  • 1:06 Quantitative
  • 2:44 Qualitative
  • 4:17 Mixed Methods
  • 5:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

In research, there are generally two types of data. In this lesson, we'll look at quantitative and qualitative measurement, when each are used, and how researchers can sometimes use both.


Carrie is a psychologist. At the college where she works, they have technology support personnel who go to a professor's office or a researcher's lab and help them deal with technology issues. She believes that the technology support personnel will work harder if they are given a raise.

If she's right, then the college will know exactly what to do to get its employees to work harder: give them raises. Her theory could change the way her college runs.

But first, she has to prove that she's right. She needs to design a study to show that people do work harder when they are given a raise. And, in order to design a study, she has to find a way of measuring her variables: pay and hard work.

Psychological measurement is the process of evaluating psychological traits, like intelligence, motivation, depression, and others. There are two main types of measurement: quantitative and qualitative. Let's look closer at each one.


So, Carrie wants to design a study to see if technology support personnel work harder if they are given a raise. The first thing that Carrie needs to do is to find a way to measure pay and hard work.

Pay is pretty easy to measure. A technology support person could make $15 per hour or they could make $20 per hour. She is measuring their pay with dollars.

But, what about hard work? Maybe she measures hard work based on the number of people who the person helps, on average, during a week. Maybe one person helps 12 people and another person helps 14.

In both of these instances, notice that the measure Carrie is looking at is a number - $15 or 14 people - either way she's measuring with numbers. Quantitative measurement is measurement of data that can be put into numbers. The goal of quantitative measurement is to run statistical analysis, so data has to be in numerical form.

In Carrie's case, her data is already quantitative; so is data like blood pressure, height, or age.

In other cases, data might not automatically be numbered, but it comes in categories that can be given a number. Let's say that Carrie wanted to look at whether women worked harder than men. She could randomly assign a number for each condition (say, women are 1 and men are 2). Though gender is not naturally a quantitative variable, it can be used in quantitative analysis by assigning numbers in this way.


But, what if Carrie doesn't think that the number of people helped is the best way to measure how hard a person is working? What if she thinks that customer comments are a better measure?

In that case, Carrie will want to collect comment cards from all of the customers and then compare the comments of the technology support personnel making $15 to those making $20. But, there's a problem: the comments say things like, 'Good job!' or 'He wasn't very nice.' How do you run statistics on those comments?

The answer is that you can't run statistics because the comments are qualitative data. Qualitative measurement focuses on collecting information that is not numerical. You can remember this by thinking of the word 'quality.' Quality is not something that you measure with numbers. You don't say that dinner was 3 qualities, or that park bench is only 1 quality. Likewise, qualitative data is not numerical. Instead of statistical analysis, the goal of qualitative measurement is to look for patterns and get a general feel for how things are.

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