Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Observation

Qualitative vs Quantitative Observation

In any research or evaluation, observation plays a big part, as it is a very important way to collect information to allow for further analysis of the data gathered. There are two different ways of observation in scientific data collection; namely, qualitative and quantitative. This article attempts to clarify these differences by highlighting the features of both qualitative as well as quantitative observation.

It is not that both quantitative and qualitative observations remain exclusive to each other and have to be used in isolation. In fact, there are many experiments that require both observation methods to be used in conjunction.

Quantitative Observation

As the name implies, quantitative observations deal with numbers, as they allow the person to quantify the results. These observations can be made with instruments that allow the user to know various physical quantities. For example, the use of thermometer tells the temperature of an object, ruler can help in knowing the length, breadth, and height of objects, weighing balance allows the researcher to know the weights of objects, and beakers allow knowing about the volume of liquids. This implies that quantitative observation give results that can be measured.

Qualitative Observation

The focus in qualitative observation is not on numbers but on quality. The information that is gathered in this manner does not lend itself to be quantified. When the research is about human behavior, qualitative observation is very efficient source of gathering information as without subjects telling about themselves or behavior, it is very difficult to get data for analysis. Even in the case of research on animals, qualitative observation is the more reliable source of obtaining information, as there is no other way to get data.

Without using any instruments, human senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing provide qualitative observation data.


What is the difference between Qualitative Observation and Quantitative Observation?

• If the data collected includes color, numbers, length, height, weight, or temperature, it reflects the use of quantitative observation. On the other hand, heaviness, shortness, roughness, smell, or tasting sweet or sour are examples of qualitative observations.

• If we are talking about marbles on a table and we tell that there are so many marbles with their respective colors and their weights and diameters, we are actually giving data on the basis of quantitative observation. On the other hand, their roughness and roundness are examples of qualitative observation.

• Quantitative data deals with numbers while qualitative observations deal with descriptions.

• Qualitative observation results cannot be measured while quantitative observation gives measurable data.

Quantities like area, height, weight, temperature, weight, time, speed etc are examples of quantitative observation while smell, taste, texture, color etc are examples of qualitative observation.