What Is Qualitative Data?

What Is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data definition

Qualitative data is non-numerical data that is observed, descriptive, and subjective. It is related to characteristics and qualities rather than trends and statistics. Qualitative data is collected through qualitative research methods, which range from simple surveys to sit-down focus group discussions.

Comparison of qualitative and quantitative data

As discussed earlier, qualitative data is observed and subjective responses to certain stimuli. Quantitative data, on the other hand, is statistical, objective, and more defined than qualitative data. It can produce clear patterns based on structured data. Quantitative data has less room for exploration and is rooted in numbers.

Examples of qualitative data

Qualitative data is descriptive by nature, and is drawn from the experiences and emotions of research participants, related to the given stimulus. Let’s say market researchers are conducting a questionnaire on behalf of an apparel company, and are asking participants their thoughts on the new line of skinny jeans. The anticipated responses will likely be associated with the overall design of the pants, the colors, the fit, and the materials. For example, the researchers can expect some responses to say, “The blue in the new design isn’t as nice as the old one”, or “This fit looks significantly better than the previous model”. These are clearly the opinions of the participants, but they can inform how the clothing company can change its jeans to better suit the consumers’ expectations.

Here are some common examples of qualitative data you might see:

  • Colors
  • Shapes and sizes
  • Aesthetics
  • Tastes
  • Smells
  • Textures
  • Sounds
  • Likes vs dislikes

Qualitative data changes drastically depending on the subject, so this list is by no means complete!

Collection of qualitative data

As outlined in Qualitative Research Methods, there are a variety of ways to collect qualitative data. Questionnaires and surveys facilitated by market researchers are the simplest and most common ways to gather concise qualitative data. Additionally, focus groups can be extremely effective techniques for receiving sound, thoughtful, and broad subjective responses. Since qualitative data requires gathering troves of perspectives and experiences from people, it can be fairly time consuming. However, in the right hands, qualitative data can be an extremely powerful tool for a company.

Coding of qualitative data

In qualitative research, “coding” is the process of connecting the initial research questions to the collected data and organizing it so that themes and patterns can be visualized. This is an extremely important step, and provides a much-needed structure to qualitative data. For researchers, this can not only help test hypotheses at the end of data collection, but coding can also inform researchers on how to adapt their methods during the research phase. At its core, coding the data breaks down large amounts of data into smaller, more manageable chunks that can be analyzed more quickly and efficiently.

Coding verbatim responses can often be a laborious and lengthy process. However, when verbatim responses are collected through online methodologies, they can often be analyzed through automated processes. Invoke utilizes such automation to allow our research moderators to be able to understand key themes of the responses in real-time. This real-time analysis provides the opportunity for both the researchers and client stakeholders to adjust the discussion and ensure that insights are actionable and timely.

Example
A group of market researchers conduct a survey session where they ask participants to react to a movie trailer. At the end of the hour-long session, the researchers have responses from 30 participants, each with answers to 15 questions. To efficiently analyze the data, the researchers search for sentences containing the words “music”, “soundtrack”, or “effects”. Thus, they are able to narrow down the responses pertaining only to the aural aspect of the trailer, and can quickly synthesize the data. The researchers can then apply this technique to other facets of the trailer and present their findings to the movie studio.

Qualitative data analysis

Due to the subjective and varied nature of qualitative research, the approach to analyzing data will inevitably change depending on the project. Nevertheless, some of the basic processes still apply. Keep in mind, all the analysis needs to somehow relate back to the initial research questions.

Once qualitative data has been organized and coded, it is ready to be analyzed. Identify recurring words and themes and see if there is a pattern among them. Though qualitative data doesn’t always lend itself to pattern recognition, finding broad trends builds a good foundation for further examination. After those have been established, link them to some of the causes for those responses. Why did many participants feel that way? What about those participants could have led them to come to similar conclusions? Is there a commonality – and potentially a causality – between those responses that hypotheses can be drawn from?

Qualitative research analysis can be much more time consuming than quantitative analysis, since the data deals with words, themes, and ideas rather than numbers that a computer program can easily plot. However, the kinds of deductions that qualitative research produces can be very informative and complementary to quantitative research.

How Is Invoke Different?

  • Invoke Is Big Qual. An Invoke LIVE session brings every stakeholder together on a consumer-led journey that leads to a real-time decision.
  • It’s inclusive, bringing together marketing executives, producers, showrunners, brand managers, business executives, and insights teams on an hour-long conversation with your target audience
  • It’s conclusive, enabling you to probe audience sentiment, test concepts on the fly, attain clarity about strategy and message – and make the right decisions, often by session’s end
  • It’s organic and illuminating, offering rich and sometimes unanticipated insights into how your audience view you and their world: the Why behind the What
  • It’s qual and quant simultaneously, with audiences of many hundreds in a single session

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Dushyant Naresh About the author
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