Quantitative Observation: Definition, Benefits and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated September 14, 2022 | Published July 7, 2021

Updated September 14, 2022

Published July 7, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Quantitative observation involves performing research to find information about entire populations. It involves conducting surveys and administering polls to individuals to understand numerical data, like height, weight and age. Learning how to perform quantitative observation may help you find numerical data in finance, sales, human research and chemistry.

In this article, we discuss what quantitative observation is, provide examples of quantitative observation research and methodology and explain the differences between quantitative observation and qualitative observation.

What is quantitative observation?

Quantitative observation is a method of gathering and analyzing data. It uses numerical data and statistical calculations to measure research and draw conclusions. It usually involves variables with a numerical value. Another form of quantitative observation is when researchers associate specific variables with a number, like rating their satisfaction on a scale of one to ten. Typically, researchers use quantitative data when researching large groups of people, since their results may be more accurate depending on how large the group is.

It's most common for researchers to use quantitative data to better understand the feelings, health and behaviors of large populations of people. Commonly, researchers conduct in-person questionnaires, polls and surveys to gather their research, or they use online platforms to administer research.

Related: What a Researcher's Work Is and How To Become One

Benefits of quantitative observation

Quantitative observation can provide a variety of benefits. It often:

  • Offers high accuracy: Quantitative data may be easier to validate, since researchers can check their calculations to ensure accuracy. For example, a scientist may check the accuracy of his quantitative data by running through the calculations several times.

  • Ensures constant results: Quantitative data has results that remain constant since typically the variables of the data are unchanging.

  • Verifies research using statistical analysis: You can verify quantitative observation research by performing a statistical analysis of data, like associational statistical analysis or descriptive statistical analysis.

  • Increases result reliability: You may use qualitative observation to boost the reliability of your research. For example, a researcher may perform qualitative research, like a case study or interview with their target group, before performing quantitative research on them.

Related: What Is Quantitative Analysis? (With Definitions and Examples)

Characteristics of quantitative observation

Quantitative observation typically includes the following elements:

  • A research plan: You can create a plan to conduct your research based on your reasoning for the quantitative observation. You can include information about your research setting, target group or timeline for the research.

  • Scientific research: A major part of quantitative research involves interpreting the results of research and applying them to scientific methods. For example, a chemist may measure the temperature that a chemical freezes at and then apply that temperature to other chemicals.

  • Large samples: Quantitative research involves creating samples that are large enough for researchers to draw conclusions about the entire population. For example, if a researcher is finding the average weight of a 5-year-old child in a certain town, they may survey hundreds of children within that town to get an accurate conclusion.

  • Bias-free results: The results of quantitative research should be free from bias so that the results have more accuracy. You can keep your research bias-free by having several people collect research data or having participants of the research review your findings to check for accuracy.

  • Numerical results: Professionals only record quantitative observation research as numerical, as this provides objective data.

  • Research equipment: You may use tools like rulers, thermometers, scales or measuring tape to complete quantitative research.

  • Various methods for analyzing data: You can analyze quantitative data using various methods like checklists, tables, graphs and evaluation tables. You may use a template to insert the data into, or you may create your own document to analyze the data.

Related: 7 Types of Statistical Analysis Techniques (And Process Steps)

Examples of quantitative observation

Here are some examples of quantitative observation:

Customer satisfaction survey

Here is an example of quantitative observation done for a customer satisfaction survey:

Luke's Grocery store wants to better understand how satisfied their customers are with their customer service and products. They conduct a survey that asks customers to rate their satisfaction on a scale of one to five. The number one question represents a negative value and shows that the customer feels dissatisfaction toward the store, while a five represents a positive value that shows the customer is satisfied with the store. They decide to give a survey out to 300 customers so that they can have an accurate observation of their customer's feelings.

After collecting the surveys, they place the data into a chart that shows the number of people that chose each number. Overall, 100 people gave the store a rating of five, 76 people gave the store a rating of four, 93 people gave the store a rating of three, 24 people gave the store a rating of two and seven people gave the store a rating of one. They conclude that most of their customers feel satisfied with the store's customer service and products.

Related: 20 Customer Satisfaction Survey Questions (Plus Question Types)

Average height analysis

Here is an example of quantitative observation done to analyze the average height of a high school basketball player:

Mark, an adolescent development researcher, wants to measure the average height of high school basketball players. To do this, he asks basketball players to sign up for the observation, and then he can measure them using a stadiometer, which is a long ruler that attaches to a wall to measure someone's height. 100 basketball players signed up for his observation, and they each stood beside the stadiometer to record their height.

Mark records each height in a chart, which he will convert into a graph once he completes the observation. Once he records all the heights, he finds that the average height for a high school basketball player is 6 feet, 5 inches tall.

Qualitative Observation: Definition, Types and Examples

Quantitative observation vs. qualitative observation

Qualitative observation is when researchers use their senses to collect data, like sight, touch and sound. Researchers often use both quantitative and qualitative observation in their research to increase the validity of their findings. Here are some differences between quantitative observation and qualitative observation:

Research characteristics

Quantitative observation and qualitative observation have different characteristics for conducting research. Quantitative research characteristics involve numerical data or data that researchers can interpret objectively. Qualitative research characteristics involve an individual's senses, like hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing and touching, which may be more subjective.

Related: Guide to Qualitative Market Research

Collection methods

When researchers perform qualitative observation, they gather data samples by observing their target group. They may interact with their target group depending on their research needs, though typically they collect data only through observation. Researchers performing a qualitative observation conduct research by interacting with their target group to administer surveys, polls and questionnaires, or they assess an individual's health, like measuring their height or weight.

Related: 6 Methods of Data Collection (With Types and Examples)

Number of participants

To perform a quantitative observation, researchers use a large number of individuals to participate in the research. This is because quantitative observations help researchers find generalized conclusions about entire populations, so they need a larger sample of individuals from to pull information. Qualitative observation requires a smaller number of people because it focuses more on an individual rather than a population. For example, a researcher may perform qualitative observation on an individual to understand their behaviors, rather than studying the behaviors of a population.

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