What is Qualitative Data?
Qualitative data refers to the data that approximates or characterizes but is unable to statistically measure any attributes. This type of data is descriptive in nature. Quantitative data in statistics is also known as categorical data. The data that can be arranged categorically based on attributes and properties of a thing or a phenomenon.
Importance of Qualitative Data
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 market researcher understand the language their consumers speak. This, in turn, helps the researchers identify and deal with problem effectively and efficiently.
Qualitative Data Examples
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 a feedback on how the child read that paragraph. If the teacher gives a 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.
In order to better understand the concept of qualitative data and quantitative data, it’s best to observe examples of particular data sets and how they can be defined. Following are the examples of qualitative data and quantitative data:
- The cake is orange, blue and black in color (qualitative).
- Females have brown, black, blonde, and red hair (qualitative).
- There are 4 cakes and three muffins kept in the basket (quantitative).
- 1 glass of fizzy drink has 97.5 calories (quantitative).
Qualitative Data Collection Methods- Types of Qualitative Data
Qualitative data collection is exploratory in nature, it involves in-depth analysis and research. Qualitative data collection methods are mainly focused on gaining insights, reasoning, and motivations hence they go deeper in terms of research. Since the qualitative data cannot be measured, this leads to the preference for methods or data collection tools that are structured to a limited extent.
Here are the qualitative data collection methods:
1. One-to-One Interviews: One of the most commonly used data collection instrument 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. The questions asked are mostly open-ended questions, spontaneous, with the interviewer letting the flow of the interview dictate the next questions to be asked.
2. 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.
3. 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 a new research. This is similar to going to a library. There one can go over books and other reference material to collect relevant data that can likely be used in the research.
4. 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.
5. Longitudinal studies: This data collection method is performed on the same data source repeatedly over an extended period of time. It is an observational research method that goes on for a few years and in some cases can go on for even decades. The goal of this data collection method is to find correlations through an empirical study of subjects with common traits.
6. Case studies: In this method, data is gathered by 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.
Learn more: Qualitative Research Methods
Advantages of Qualitative Data
1. It helps in-depth analysis: Qualitative data collected provide the researchers with in-depth analysis of subject matters. While collecting qualitative data, the researchers tend to probe the participants and can gather ample amount of information by asking the right kind of questions. From a series of question and answers, the data that is collected is used to draw conclusions.
2. Understand what customers think: Qualitative data helps the market researchers to understand the mindset of their customers. The use of qualitative data gives businesses an insight into why a customer purchased a product. Understanding customer language helps market research infer the data collected in a more systematic manner.
3. Rich data: Collected data can be used to conduct research in future as well. Since, the questions asked to collect qualitative data are open-ended questions, respondents are free to express their opinions which leads to collecting more information.
Disadvantages of Qualitative Data
1. Time-consuming: As collecting qualitative data is more time consuming, fewer people are studies in comparison to collecting quantitative data and unless time and budget allow, a smaller sample size is included.
2. Not easy to generalize: Since fewer people are studied, it is difficult to generalize the results of that population.
3. Is dependent on researcher’s skills: This type of data is collected through one-to-one interviews, observations, focus groups etc. it relies on the researcher’s skills and experience to collect information from the sample.