What Does Qualitative Mean?
Qualitative, within the context of testing, is an adjective used to describe the nature of data or information about something. Qualitative data defines something by the presence, or absences, of specific characteristics. When qualitative information is produced in testing or research, this information will refer only to whether or not the item studied possesses the target quality. In comparison, quantitative data is communicated through numeric, or other, forms that relate to quantities or amounts.
WorkplaceTesting Explains Qualitative
Qualitative information is often subjective or based on personal opinion. This means that individuals could examine the same item and reach differing conclusions about its qualitative characteristics. For instance, one person might find a music amplifier’s volume too loud while another would describe it as too soft. In contrast, a quantitative measure of the amplifier’s volume would indicate the specific decibel level of the sound produced.
When used in research, qualitative data may be gathered when the subject cannot be evaluated quantitatively or used in combination with quantitative data. An example of a qualitative test conducted in the workplace is the qualitative mask fit test. For the qualitative test, the person wearing the respirator mask must indicate whether they smell or taste the test agent following exposure. By contrast, a quantitative test uses air sampling from within the mask to determine the exact levels of exposure to the substance without relying on the opinion/senses of a specific person.
The term qualitative in drug or alcohol testing refers to a screening or preliminary test that determines the presence of drugs or alcohol in a sample. A qualitative test will not identify the exact levels of drug concentrations in the sample and are usually communicated as either a positive or negative result.