Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

Quantitative and Qualitative Data

The Quick Answer
Qualitative information (from quality) is a description of a trait that can be observed but not measured. For example:
  • The branch smells rotten.
Quantitative information (from quantity) gives the number for something that can be measured. For example:
  • The branch is 4 inches thick.

What Is the Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative?

Qualitative data describes features, traits, or qualities that are not measured on numerical scales. Quantitative data deals with numbers (i.e., things that can be measured and counted).

Qualitative

The adjective qualitative comes from the noun quality. It is commonly used to describe the words data or information. Qualitative information is a description of a trait that can be observed but not measured. For example:
  • The team is well prepared.
  • The leaf feels waxy.
  • The river is peaceful.
Qualitative information describes a feature.

Quantitative

The adjective quantitative comes from the noun quantity. It is commonly used to describe the words data, information, or evidence. Quantitative information deals with numbers. It gives the quantity of something that can be measured (e.g., age, area, height, speed, temperature, time, volume, width). For example:
  • The team has 7 players.
  • The leaf weighs 2 ounces.
  • The river is 25 miles long.

Qualitative versus Quantitative Data

ItemQualitative DataQualitative Data
  • He is friendly.
  • He smells like popcorn.
  • His coat is beautifully groomed.
  • He is three years old.
  • He weighs 15 kilograms.
  • His temperature is normal.
  • (Note: This is quantitative data because it can be measured to attain a numerical result.)
  • It is regal.
  • It is smooth.
  • It invokes serenity.
  • It costs $200,000.
  • It is over 500 years old.
  • It is 25 inches tall.
Note

Converting Qualitative Information to Quantitative Information

Analyzing qualitative information can be difficult because the descriptions are often subjective (i.e., a matter of personal opinion), and this makes it hard to do comparisions. As a result, qualitative information is not always useful for decision-making or identifying trends.

To make qualitative information easier to work with, it can be converted into quantitative information, a process which involves turning descriptions into numbers.


This chart is often used by doctors to put a value to terms such as an "achy pain" or a "piercing pain." Allocating a number to a pain level allows a comparison with previous visits.

Converting qualitative information to quantitative information can usually be done with a bit of thought. For example, the qualitative statement "Users could not find the 'Check Out Now' button" could easily be converted to the quantitative statement "40% of users did not find the 'Check Out Now' button." This allows improvements to be made and results to be analyzed.