Qualitative data is also called categorical data since this data can be grouped according to categories.
For example, think of a student reading a paragraph from a book during one of the class sessions. A teacher who is listening to the reading gives feedback on how the child read that paragraph. If the teacher gives feedback based on fluency, intonation, throw of words, clarity in pronunciation without giving a grade to the child, this is considered as an example of qualitative data.
It’s pretty easy to understand the difference between qualitative and quantitative data. Qualitative data does not include numbers in its definition of traits, whereas quantitative data is all about numbers.
- The cake is orange, blue, and black in color (qualitative).
- Females have brown, black, blonde, and red hair (qualitative).
Quantitative data is any quantifiable information that can be used for mathematical calculation or statistical analysis. This form of data helps in making real-life decisions based on mathematical derivations. Quantitative data is used to answer questions like how many? How often? How much? This data can be validated and verified.
To better understand the concept of qualitative and quantitative data, it’s best to observe examples of particular datasets and how they can be defined. The following are examples of quantitative data.
- There are four cakes and three muffins kept in the basket (quantitative).
- One glass of fizzy drink has 97.5 calories (quantitative).
Qualitative data is important in determining the particular frequency of traits or characteristics. It allows the statistician or the researchers to form parameters through which larger data sets can be observed. Qualitative data provides the means by which observers can quantify the world around them.
For a market researcher, collecting qualitative data helps in answering questions like, who their customers are, what issues or problems they are facing, and where do they need to focus their attention, so problems or issues are resolved.
Qualitative data is about the emotions or perceptions of people, what they feel. In quantitative data, these perceptions and emotions are documented. It helps the market researchers understand the language their consumers speak and deal with the problem effectively and efficiently.
- One-to-One Interviews: It is one of the most commonly used data collection instruments for qualitative research, mainly because of its personal approach. The interviewer or the researcher collects data directly from the interviewee on a one-to-one basis. The interview may be informal and unstructured – conversational. Mostly the open-ended questions are asked spontaneously, with the interviewer letting the flow of the interview dictate the questions to be asked.
- Focus groups: This is done in a group discussion setting. The group is limited to 6-10 people, and a moderator is assigned to moderate the ongoing discussion.
Depending on the data which is sorted, the members of a group may have something in common. For example, a researcher conducting a study on track runners will choose athletes who are track runners or were track runners and have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter.
- Record keeping: This method makes use of the already existing reliable documents and similar sources of information as the data source. This data can be used in the new research. It is similar to going to a library. There, one can go over books and other reference material to collect relevant data that can be used in the research.
- Process of observation: In this qualitative data collection method, the researcher immerses himself/ herself in the setting where his respondents are, and keeps a keen eye on the participants and takes down notes. This is known as the process of observation.
Besides taking notes, other documentation methods, such as video and audio recording, photography, and similar methods, can be used.
- Longitudinal studies: This data collection method is performed on the same data source repeatedly over an extended period. It is an observational research method that goes on for a few years and, in some cases, can go on for even decades. This data collection method aims to find correlations through an empirical study of subjects with common traits.
- Case studies: In this method, data is gathered by an in-depth analysis of case studies. The versatility of this method is demonstrated in how this method can be used to analyze both simple and complex subjects. The strength of this method is how judiciously it uses a combination of one or more qualitative data collection methods to draw inferences.
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