Theory, Model, Method

Field work 2: qualitative versus quantitative

Quantitative data is organised in a numerical form, i.e. the results of counting, measuring and calculating are represented.

Example of quantitative data:

(Source: Radford, Andrew et al.1999. Linguistics. An Introduction. Cambridge: CUP:55.)

Qualitative data contains actual samples of utterances or longer stretches of speech and is usually presented in a written form, e.g. a transcription of an interview or a conversation, or even audio-visual clips. Qualitative data samples can be submitted to a qualitative analysis or to a quantitative analysis. A qualitative analysis features examples of a particular aspect of language, whereas a quantitative analysis represents language behaviour numerically.

Example of qualitative data:

Interaction between child (C) and mother (M)
C: me want to read that.
M: okay. let's read that.
C: read that. wrong side.
M: I think you've got it upside down.
C: look. look her toe.
M: I think they're funny shoes actually. made to look like toes.
C: why?

(Source: Stillwell Peccei, Jean 1994. Child Language. London: Routledge.)

Exercises on Naturalistic Data Collection: Field Work