Difference Between Subjective and Objective Data

Subjective data is obtained by communicating, while objective data is obtained by observing. ScienceStruck delves deeper on the subjective vs. objective data comparison.
ScienceStruck Staff
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2018
Did You Know?
Subjective and objective data components are a part of the 'SOAP' documentation method, which is used by the medical fraternity to list notes in a patient's health care chart.

Data collection is an important part of any assessment process, whether it is for risk management, a health diagnosis, or a performance evaluation. The subjective and objective methods of data collection are two prominent ones used to determine the type of data collected and the assumptions. While the former is related to verbal expression of thought and the declarations to follow, the latter is related to verifiable, solid fact. The theory is widely used in nursing. The difference between subjective and objective data is given in the paragraphs below.
Subjective Data
  • By definition, subjective data is data that is collected or obtained via personal interactions, i.e., talking, sharing, explaining, etc.
  • It is collected to make an assumption about what the fact might be, what event might have occurred, what calculations may have to be done, etc.
  • For instance, if you feel very tired, you are asked many questions regarding how you feel, whether you feel sleepy, giddy, dizzy, nauseous, etc. You can talk about these problems and communicate with people regarding why you must be feeling tired. This data is called subjective data.
  • Subjective data can also be collected by means of judgment, suspicion, or rumors.
  • This data varies from one person to another, with every situation, every minute.
  • It cannot be declared as the truth, as it evolves from so many varied sources with different inputs.
  • Subjective language usually begins with, 'I think', 'I need', 'I feel', etc.
Objective Data
  • By definition, objective data is data that is collected or obtained via established or verifiable facts and sources.
  • It is collected to confirm your suspicions and assumptions - or merely to gather dependable information. It is something that can be felt, touched, smelled, seen, heard, and tasted.
  • For instance, if you feel very tired, you will not be asked much, but will be observed. Your behavior will be taken note of. Your tiredness levels will be calculated. Other factors related to tiredness will be considered. Your reactions to different situations will be taken note of. Tests will be conducted to arrive at a solution. This is objective data.
  • Objective data will be the same from multiple sources, and can be counted and described accurately and confirmed.
  • This data does not vary from one person to another or with every situation.
  • It can be declared as nearly true data because it remains same and consistent even if many sources are involved.
  • Objective language usually begins with 'I said', 'I observed', 'I measured', etc.
Factors of Differentiation
Subjective Data Vs. Objective Data
Underlying Basis
Its underlying base is personal interpretation. Whatever is perceived is done so, upon communicating with the person about the same and believing what was said by the person/source. Its underlying base is observing what happened, observing the facts. The facts are straightforward or proved by means of a test/analysis/experiment, and are true and measurable.
Decision-making
It cannot be completely relied on for taking decisions. After all, personal opinions and beliefs vary, and may present an entirely new perspective of the same problem. In such a scenario, a level-headed decision cannot be taken. It is based on facts; hence, it is usually reliable for decision-making. Whatever decision is taken is done so in the light of what has actually happened, that which can be trusted upon, with experiments and facts.
Common Arenas
Subjective data and analysis can usually be found on personal blogs, forums, Internet chat stations, biographies, editorials, etc. Objective data is not a discussion. It is found in important scientific papers, encyclopedias, textbooks, reference books, tutorials, etc.
Reporting Information
It cannot be used for reporting any news. As it is collected through discussions and interpretations, it is not totally reliable; therefore, making a definite assumption about an event or subject is incorrect. It can be used for reporting information. Data collection is done through efficient methods and reliable, set procedures. It is dependable and can be reported.
Examples
When you have a cough and you go to the hospital, the doctor/nurse will ask you questions regarding your cough, like 'When did it start?', 'Is it a dry cough or wet cough?', 'Did you eat/drink something cold?', etc. The information obtained thus, is classified as subjective data. When you get a cough and go to the doctor, the doctor will examine you thoroughly, check your vital signs, conduct tests, and then, based on the test results, he will ascertain the problem you are suffering from (like bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.). This is objective data.
The concept of subjective and objective data is used extensively in nursing assessment and health analysis. Through subjective data, an idea/assumption can be formed regarding the condition of the patient, and the same can be verified via gathering objective data. This theory is useful in many other fields besides medicine.