What is Qualitative Data?

Definition: Non-numerical facts gathered to feed a given research. It regularly means data that can’t be measured or explain with numbers.

What Does Qualitative Data Mean?

In research projects, a given variable is defined either as quantitative or qualitative. As opposed to quantitative data, which is expressed in numerical figures, qualitative data is mostly reflected textually by describing the observed variable. The purpose of this data is to state the main characteristics of the variable being studied to explain its behavior. Qualitative data can be gathered by employing different methods, the main one being simple observation.

By observing the variable’s behavior in different scenarios a researcher can establish different qualitative values for the variable each time it was observed. On the other hand, depending on the nature of the research, qualitative data can also be gathered by looking at past written research projects and also through interviews and collective opinions, which is the case of focus groups. Overall, qualitative data can give the researcher a more insightful perspective about the subject being studied.


For example, Dr. Morgan is a dentist with an office located in downtown Washington. He has been practicing there for 5 years and he wants to conduct a research on customer’s satisfaction. He is doing it by getting his clients to answer a short survey applied by his secretary when they come out of the consultation. As part of this market research effort, he wants to find out how satisfied his customers were with the service provided.

In order to do that, he included a question about that and the possible answers were: 1. Exceeded expectations, 2. Delivered what I expected, 3. A little less than what I expected, 4. Not what I expected 5. Will not come back. This questions will gather qualitative data to measure the degree of satisfaction experienced by Dr. Morgan’s customers.