Qualitative data is all around you. From the smoothness of your skin to the softness of your hair, qualitative observation data provides a description of how something looks, feels, smells, etc. View examples of simple qualitative data in everyday life and in research. Get an overview of the language used for qualitative observation.
Examples of Qualitative Observations
Qualitative data is used to characterize objects or observations. It is observable data that might use your sense 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. Explore several examples of qualitative data:
- The skin on her hand was smooth and silky.
- The cake was black with orange frosting.
- The room was bright and airy with blue curtains.
- The man has brown hair and blue eyes.
- The boy was a track runner.
- We noticed that all the donuts with bites were chocolate cake with pink frosting.
- The lilies had a sweet smell that permeated the mauve room.
- Fluffy white clouds filled the bright blue sky.
- The woman had blonde hair with a purple bow.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data
Qualitative data is descriptive data like color, taste, texture, smell, etc. Quantitative data, on the other hand, is data that is measurable. For example, qualitative data of milk might discuss it’s a white liquid. Quantitative data of the same milk might discuss there are 3 gallons of milk. See another example to drive this difference home.
- Qualitative observation: I 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.
- Quantitative observation: I 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 Observation in Research
Qualitative observations and data can be extremely helpful to research and scientific studies. Explore qualitative data used in studies.
- 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- By reading historical documents and diaries written during a certain period, a person may get some general ideas about what life was like during that time.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 eyewitnesses 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.
Language of Qualitative Observation
When making qualitative observations, several different adjectives or adverbs you might use include:
- Color: aqua, black, cyan, dark, dull, ebony, indigo, ivory, magenta, mauve, medium, neutral, pine, rust, taupe, violet
- Texture or touch: bumpy, cottony, damp, feathery, furry, gnarled, hairy, irregular, knotted, oily, prickly, sandy, tweedy, wrinkled
- Smell: acrid, buttery, clean, flowery, medicinal, musty, noxious, piney, rancid, savory, stale, stuffy, sweet
- Taste: acidic, bitter, chalky, dry, gamey, juicy, lemony, nasty, peppery, rank, salty, sharp, tangy, tart, vinegary, yummy
- Sound: bang, chime, croak, drone, gulp, hoot, jingle, knock, loud, ping, prattle, quiet, rattle, sizzle, tap, warble, whistle
- Other qualitative aspects: brave, clumsy, dumb, excited, fast, friendly, generous, intelligent, liberal, masterful, moody, positive, short, tall, ugly
Making Qualitative Data Observations
Typically, qualitative data is used alongside quantitative data to make a well-rounded experiment or study. Looking to find out more about research? Dive into the scientific method examples. Not only will you find out the history but learn how it is used.