When carrying out experimental research, researchers can adopt either qualitative or quantitative methods of data observation depending on the sample size, research variables, and the hypothesis. Observation is an important aspect of systematic investigation because it sets the pace for any research. 

Qualitative and quantitative observation methods can be used interdependently with a variety of research tools in order to facilitate data collection and analysis. However, it is easy for these methods of observation to be mixed up hence, the need for researchers to understand the key differences between qualitative and quantitative observation.  

What is Quantitative Observation?

A quantitative observation is an objective method of data analysis that measures research variables using numerical and statistical parameters. This method of observation views research variables in terms of quantity hence; it is usually associated with values that can be counted such as age, weight, volume, and scale. 

A quantitative observation is also referred to as standardized observation because it measures research variables using definite parameters and results in definite research outcomes. It is usually carried out with a large data sample size because the larger the research sample; the more accurate the research findings would be. 

Surveys, questionnaires, and polls are common methods of carrying out quantitative observation and you can use online data-gathering platforms like Formplus to create and administer quantitative observation surveys. As a result of its dependence on numerical data, quantitative observation is commonly used for scientific research.  

Characteristics of Quantitative Observation Method

  • It is definite

Unlike other methods of data analysis, the quantitative analysis yields definite results that can be quantified. Hence, adopting this data analysis design would help you arrive at more accurate research outcomes. 

  • Fixed Findings

The research outcomes arrived at via quantitative observation are typically constant and not subject to sporadic changes. For example, the freezing point of water is 0°C and remains constant as long as other research variables are constant. 

  • Research Sample Size

For a quantitative observation to be effective, the data sample must be large enough. This provides researchers with enough information for arriving at objective findings. 

  • Reduced Research Biases

The data gathered using quantitative observation is usually accurate since it is subject to a few research biases


 What is Qualitative Observation? 

Qualitative observation is a research method that makes use of subjective parameters for data gathering. It utilizes processes like inductive reasoning, naturalism, and empathetic neutrality in order to equate quality similarities and differences among research variables. 

Usually, qualitative observation is more time-consuming, extensive and personal, and it uses the 5 sensory organs while examining research variables. This is because the focus of qualitative observation is the characteristics of the research subjects rather than numerical value or quantity. 

Characteristics of Qualitative Observation

  • In qualitative observation, there is no right, wrong or definite answer. In this method, the researcher is keen on gathering varying answers because the more dynamic the data sample is, the better the research outcome. 
  • Qualitative observation pays attention to how the context of research influences information, outcomes, and findings. 
  • It is subjective in nature. 
  • Qualitative observation considers every research process differently regardless of any similarities with previous studies. 

Here are 15 Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative Observation 

  • Definitions 

Qualitative observation is a research method that examines the characteristics of research variables while quantitative observation is a research design that quantifies variables in terms of statistical and numerical value. Simply put, quantitative observation is an objective method of data gathering while qualitative observation is a subjective method of data gathering. 

For example, when a researcher pays equates research variables in terms of their quality, then this is qualitative observation. However, when a researcher measures the number of variables using fixed numerical or statistical parameters, then this is quantitative observation. 

  • Examples 

Examples of quantitative observation include age, weight, height, length, population, size and other numerical values while examples of qualitative observation are color, smell, taste, touch or feeling, typology, and shapes. 

Generally, quantitative observation deals with data that can be counted while qualitative observation deals with data that can be described in terms of the 5 sensory organs. 

Consider the examples below:

  • I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters.
  • The t-shirts are colored blue, black and red.

The data sample in example 1 denotes quantitative observation while the data sample in example 2 denotes qualitative observation. 

  • Uses

Qualitative observation is mainly used in research that is concerned with the differentiating qualities of research variables while quantitative observation is mainly used in research processes that require data quantification. In some situations, a researcher may need to combine quantitative and qualitative observations in order to arrive at more objective findings. 

If a researcher needs to categorize his or her data sample based on statistical parameters, then quantitative observation would be utilized. However, if a researcher needs to categorize his or her data sample based on qualitative differences, then qualitative observation would be adopted. 

  • Advantages of Qualitative Observation over Quantitative Observation 

Qualitative observation results in more in-depth and descriptive research outcomes, unlike quantitative observation. In qualitative observation, the researcher pays attention to the nature of the research variables in order to discover the true characteristics and behaviors of these variables in their natural environments. 

On the other hand, quantitative research only focuses on the numerical values of research variables without taking the nature of these variables into consideration. Hence, it is more suitable for research processes that examine quantifiable data.  

  • Disadvantages of Qualitative Observation 

Because of its focus on the in-depth description of research variables, qualitative observation is time-consuming, capital intensive and also requires a high level of expertise. Hence, this method of observation may not be suitable for systematic investigations that are set within a short time frame and are subject to limited resources. 

On the other hand, quantitative research requires a shorter time frame and results in more definite research outcomes. Since its data sample can be quantified using fixed numerical parameters, quantitative observation yields more accurate results than qualitative observation and it is suitable for statistical investigations. 

  • Methodology

Qualitative observation gathers data samples using complete observer, observer as a participant, participant as an observer and complete participant methods while quantitative observation collects data samples using surveys, questionnaires, and polls. For instance, you can use Formplus to create and share an online survey with your research groups part of quantitative observation. 

Qualitative observation methods typically entail the researcher recording the research variables in their natural environment. To do this, the observer may need to become a part of the research group, interact with the research group or co-exist with the research group in order to effectively describe its habits.  

  • Characteristics

Numerical evaluation and bias-free research findings are the major characteristics of quantitative observation while inductive analysis and naturalism are common features of qualitative observation. Quantitative observation defines research data based in terms of quantity hence, it utilizes statistical parameters for measurements. 

Qualitative observation, on the other hand, uses inductive analysis and naturalism to describe the nature of research variables. Naturalism entails observing research variables as they interact in their natural environment while inductive analysis involves generating hypotheses based on interactions with the research group. 

  • Data Sample Size

Qualitative observation is usually conducted on a small data sample size while quantitative observation is carried out on a large data sample size. Quantitative observation depends on the quantity of the research variables in order to arrive at objective findings since the data is quantified as the actual. 

In the case of qualitative observation, the research variables represent the emotions of a larger data sample. Qualitative observation works with a small data sample size because it is more extensive and personal, and the outcomes are the result of extended observation of the research group. 

  • Uses in Research

As a research design, qualitative observation is used to gather information for policy formulation, developing new concepts and creating new products while quantitative observation is mostly used in scientific research since it generates numerically observed outcomes that can be measured. 

For instance, if an organization wants to gather information relating to market needs for a product launch, it may have to adopt qualitative observation methods. However, if the same organization needs to gather information on the number of consumers that use its product, it may have to utilize quantitative observation methods. 

  • Objectivity

A quantitative observation is objective while qualitative observation is subjective. Quantitative observation methods depend on fixed numerical parameters in order to categorize data samples while qualitative observation depends on subjective parameters for data gathering and data analysis. 

Quantitative observation methods depend on fixed numerical parameters in order to categorize data samples while qualitative observation depends on subjective parameters for data gathering and data analysis – Click to Tweet

In qualitative observation, the researcher does not work with any fixed parameters in generating research outcomes rather, s/he collects and describes a variety of information related to the research variables. Quantitative observation, on the other hand, examines the data samples in line with definite numerical values.  

  • Statistics

Quantitative observation methods make use of statistical parameters while qualitative observation makes use of subjective parameters. In this sense, carrying out quantitative observation means quantifying your data using certain numerical values such as age, weight, population, depth, amount and other units of measurement. 

On the other hand, qualitative observation does not quantify data hence, it is not suitable for statistical evaluation. Instead, it focuses on describing the nature of the research variables by examining how they interact with their natural environment; therefore, it is not a common method of observation in scientific research. 

  • Sociology

Qualitative observation is more suitable for sociological investigations while quantitative observation is more suitable for scientific research. Qualitative observation methods such as naturalism involve examining research groups in their natural environment in order to arrive at objective conclusions about their behaviors and characteristics. 

Quantitative observation utilizes data gathering methods such as surveys and polls in order to quantify and categorize the research data. This research approach aligns with the scientific method of inquiry in which the research data sample is examined using measurable processes in order to arrive at definite results. 

  • Bias

Qualitative observation is more susceptible to biased outcomes, unlike quantitative observation. Qualitative observation methods are fluid and do not have any definite parameters for data description hence, the data gathering process is largely subject to the discretion of the researcher. 

Quantitative observation produces bias-free outcomes because this method of investigation adopts definite and objective approaches to the examination of research variables. However, these outcomes have a margin of error which is the level of error in results arrived at from analyzing random sampling surveys. 

  • Variability 

Qualitative observation has a high degree of variability, unlike quantitative observation. Variability in research refers to the lack of consistency in research parameters or the lack of a fixed or definite research methodology as is obtainable in qualitative observation.

Qualitative observation methods do not have fixed parameters for the examination of sample data instead, these methods are modified based on the discretion of the researcher to suit the sample and research environment. On the other hand, quantitative observation examines data samples based on definite numerical values. 

  • Reasoning

Quantitative observation employs deductive analysis while qualitative observation employs inductive analysis. In a deductive analysis, the researcher develops a research theory, builds hypotheses from this theory and tests the hypotheses by collecting and analyzing data samples using quantitative observation methods. 

On the other hand, in inductive analysis, the researcher first gathers data samples through the observation of the research variables in their natural environment. After doing this, he or she proceeds to analyze the data samples in order to identify patterns and develop a theory that explains these patterns. 

Similarities between Quantitative and Qualitative Observation

Despite their different approaches to data gathering and analysis, there are a number of similarities between quantitative and qualitative observation methods. Here are a number of them: 

  • Participants 

Both qualitative observation and quantitative observation depend on data samples gathered from research participants in order to generate objective findings. However, while qualitative observation draws data samples from actual interaction with the participants, quantitative research may utilize different indirect methods for data collection from participants. 

  • Tools for Research Analysis

Qualitative and quantitative observations are both potent tools for systematic investigation. While the former is used for research analysis aimed at describing the nature of the variables, the latter is used to quantify variables based on numerical values. 

  • Merger 

Qualitative and quantitative observation methods can be used interdependently in research. For example, in gathering feedback about a product, an organization may need to collect information about the product’s market share before proceeding with consumer satisfaction inquires. 

  • Data Collection

Both quantitative and qualitative observation methods are aimed at data collection. In other words, quantitative and qualitative observation helps the researcher to gather the information that would later be analyzed in order to come up with research findings. 

How to Use Formplus for Quantitative Observation

You can use Formplus to create and administer online surveys as part of the methods of quantitative observation. Formplus allows you to create a dynamic survey form in minutes and you can easily share your form link with friends and family. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use Formplus for quantitative observation: 

Sign in on Formplus

In the Formplus builder, you can easily create your survey form by dragging and dropping preferred fields into your form. To access the Formplus builder, you will need to create an account on Formplus

Once you do this, sign in to your account and click on “Create Form ” to begin. 


Edit Form Title

  • Click on the field provided to input your form title, for example, “Qualitative Observation”. 

Edit Form 

  • Click on the edit button to edit the form.
  • Add Fields: Drag and drop preferred form fields into your form in the Formplus builder inputs column. There are several field input options for survey forms in the Formplus builder. 
  • Edit fields
  • Click on “Save”
  • Preview form. 

Customize Form

Formplus allows you to add unique features to your survey form. You can personalize your form using various customization options in the builder. Here, you can add background images, your organization’s logo, and other features. You can also change the display theme of your form. 

Now, save your survey form and share the link with respondents. You can also track all form responses in the analytics dashboard. 


Qualitative observation and quantitative observation are 2 of the most common data collection and data processing methods used in research. Both methods are primarily defined by specific characteristics in terms of their research design, data sample size and other features already mentioned in this write-up. 

Unlike quantitative observation that arrives at research outcomes through deductive reasoning, qualitative observation applies inductive reasoning for data analysis. In this sense, the researcher develops a theory to explain the patterns he has observed from his research sample after an extended inquiry period. 

In terms of similarities, both qualitative and quantitative observation methods depend on participants and groups in order to gather research variables. As an online data-gathering platform, Formplus can help you to develop and easily administer online surveys as part of the methods of quantitative observation. 

  • busayo.longe
  • on 12 min read


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