What Type of Data Is Categorical?


Heather Bennett

What Type of Data Is Categorical?

When working with data, it is essential to understand the different types of data you may encounter. One common classification is categorical data.

Categorical data represents characteristics or qualities that can be divided into distinct categories or groups. In this article, we will explore what categorical data is and provide examples to help you better understand its significance.

Defining Categorical Data

Categorical data, also known as qualitative or nominal data, consists of variables that can be divided into specific categories based on their characteristics. These categories are typically non-numeric and represent different groups or classes.

Unlike numerical data, categorical variables cannot be measured on a continuous scale.

Categorical data can further be classified into two subtypes: nominal and ordinal.

Nominal Data

Nominal data represents variables that have distinct categories but do not have any inherent order or ranking among them. For example, consider a dataset containing information about eye color.

The categories in this case would include brown, blue, green, and hazel. Each category is unique and cannot be compared in terms of magnitude.

To represent nominal data in HTML, you can use unordered lists (

    ) with list items (

  • ). Here’s an example:

    • Brown
    • Blue
    • Green
    • Hazel

    Ordinal Data

    Ordinal data shares similarities with nominal data but includes an additional characteristic – order or ranking among the categories. The categories in ordinal data have an inherent order but do not have a consistent difference between them. For instance, consider a survey asking for ratings of a restaurant experience on a scale of 1 to 5.

    The categories here are “poor,” “fair,” “good,” “very good,” and “excellent.” While there is an order, the difference between each rating is not uniform.

    To represent ordinal data in HTML, you can use ordered lists (

      ) with list items (

    1. ). Here’s an example:

      1. Poor
      2. Fair
      3. Good
      4. Very Good
      5. Excellent

      Why Categorical Data Matters

      Understanding categorical data is crucial because it affects the type of analysis that can be performed. Categorical data requires different statistical techniques and visualization methods compared to numerical data.

      Analyzing categorical data often involves calculating frequencies, proportions, and conducting tests of association or independence between variables.

      By recognizing whether your data is categorical, you can determine the appropriate approaches for analysis and draw accurate conclusions. Categorical data plays a significant role in various fields such as market research, social sciences, healthcare, and more.


      In summary, categorical data represents variables that can be divided into distinct categories or groups without any inherent order (nominal) or with an inherent order (ordinal). Recognizing categorical data is essential for choosing appropriate analysis methods and drawing accurate conclusions.

      By utilizing HTML elements such as unordered lists (

        ) and ordered lists (

          ), you can effectively present and organize categorical data in your web content.

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