Qualitative pertains to the description of something using our senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. It does not refer to aspects that can be numbered or measured. Qualitative aspects are subjective and abstract qualities, not objective or concrete factors.
Qualitative Aspects: Examples from Everyday Life
Descriptions that use qualitative words contain words that show the feeling or quality of something. For example:
- A qualitative description of a home decor project could be "painted the walls a soft beige, added drapes of smooth silk, placed vases of sweet smelling lilies throughout the room and added thick area rugs to muffle the outside sounds."
- The quantified description of the same home decor project could be "painted two walls in each room, added 120" drapes, cut 12 dozen lilies and placed them in vases throughout the room and added 1" thick area rugs to muffle the 84 decibel level from the trucks going by outside to a level of 10 decibels."
Qualitative Observations and Research
- During an experiment, it was observed that after adding the iodine, the potato turned purplish.
- Artifacts found at archeological digs are examined and conclusions are drawn about the activities of people who used them.
- By reading historical documents and diaries written during a certain period, a person may get some general ideas about what life was like during that time.
- A psychologist may observe children at play and make assumptions about their relationships.
- Animals can be observed in their natural habitat and certain conclusions may be made about behavioral traits.
- Surveys or focus groups ask questions to collect participants' opinions.
- A journalist will interview eye witnesses to an event to get their opinions and feelings.
- A movie critic observes many aspects of a movie and makes a judgment about its quality and audience appeal.
- A researcher observes the way cultural values affect adult learning in a society.
- Gathering information among patients who have had a heart attack helps evaluate their behavior and lifestyles.
- Interviewing children in a school about their cell phone use will lead to conclusions about cell phone use of children in the general population.
These examples of what it means for a word or expression to be qualitative can be used as a measure to determine if a description is qualitative or quantitative.