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Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Observation

Qualitative vs Quantitative Observation

The search for knowledge using systematic investigation to solve problems or to establish facts and to develop new ideas and theories involves artistic, historical, and scientific research. Before any hypotheses or definitions can be formed, before data can be gathered, analyzed, tested, and concluded, and before any conclusion is made, topics have to be formed and observed.

Observation is a fundamental aspect of all scientific research. Scientists learn and develop concepts through observing the environment, people, animals, things, and how they affect each other. There are two types of observation: quantitative observation and qualitative observation. They are either used separately or together using a variety of tools necessary for the gathering and measurement of data.

Qualitative observation is a subjective gathering of information which focuses more on differences in quality rather than differences in quantity. It involves fewer participants because it is more concerned on bringing out and knowing details about each participant which is more easily done on fewer subjects. It is done through interviews and passive or in-depth observations. It is conducted on a more personal level requiring the researcher to build the confidence of the participants in him so that they will readily provide him with the information he needs.

Participants are encouraged to answer questions in their own words and in a natural setting, particularly in public places. This is usually done by psychologists, sociologists, and social scientists to help them understand animal and human behavior.

Quantitative observation, on the other hand, is an objective gathering of information which focuses on numbers or measurements while basing results on statistics and numeric analyses. Except for the social sciences, it is the most commonly used observation method in research. It involves the observation of anything that can be measured such as the differences in shapes, sizes, color, volume, and numbers. It includes taking a sample which best represents the population.

A large number of participants or subjects are needed in a quantitative observation. This is done to give the observation more strength and make the results of the research more credible. It does not provide any in-depth knowledge about the participants but allows for a general statistical analysis on the population which is done after all data have been gathered unlike qualitative observation wherein observations are constantly analyzed as they are being gathered.


Qualitative observation is a subjective process of gathering data or information while quantitative observation is an objective process of gathering data or information.
Qualitative observation focuses on differences in qualities while quantitative observation focuses on differences in quantities.
Quantitative observation requires a large number of participants or subjects while qualitative observation requires only a few participants.
Quantitative observation is used in most scientific research with the exception of the social sciences which use qualitative observation.
Qualitative observation provides more personal and in-depth data about each participant while quantitative observation provides a general statistical analysis of a population.
Quantitative observation entails taking out a sample to represent the population being observed while qualitative observation does not.

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