We must address problems at the interface of humans and the environment must to ensure the sustainable use of resources that support people. Addressing these socio-environmental problems often involves the use of qualitative data—information that is not in the form of numbers. In some cases, you can convert qualitative data to quantitative forms; however, there are well-developed methods for using it as is. Examples of qualitative data that sustainability research often uses include information from surveys, interviews, focus groups, ethnographic notes, photographs, drawing, recordings, and more. Researchers analyze or query these data are to identify patterns and themes, views, feelings, and meanings—many of which are not explicitly stated or obvious in the content.
This 2-minute video clip provides an example of how to combine qualitative data—in this case, textual data—with quantitative data to understand the frequency of wildfires in California, and it describes methods for analysis of qualitative data.