Quantitative or Qualitative Approaches

There are many ways to collect data to answer evaluation questions. A data collection technique may produce numerical information (quantitative data), more illustrative information (qualitative data), or a combination of the two (mixed methods data). Determining what type of data will answer evaluation questions is an important step in figuring out the data collection technique to use.

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  Quick Facts Examples

Quantitative Data

  • Counted or expressed numerically
  • Variables can be identified and relationships measured
  • Requires use of statistical analysis
  • Often perceived as a more objective method of data analysis
  • Typically collected with surveys or questionnaires
  • Often represented visually using graphs or charts
An evaluator may wish to measure the knowledge of social skills among program participants. The evaluator may administer surveys to participants to test their knowledge of these social skills.

Qualitative Data

  • Nonnumerical data examined for patterns and meanings
  • Often described as being more “rich” than quantitative data
  • Is gathered and analyzed by an individual; can be more subjective
  • Can be collected through observation techniques, focus groups, interviews, case studies, etc.
Evaluators may wish to look at the level of engagement of after-school staff in program trainings. They might conduct interviews of these staff members to capture the level of engagement that each staff member feels they experience during the trainings.

Mixed Methods Data

  • Collecting both quantitative and qualitative data from the same population
  • May explain unexpected results obtained using only one approach (quantitative or qualitative)
  • Helps capture both process and outcome results
  • May strengthen analysis
An evaluator may administer a survey to participants that solicits answers eligible for statistical analysis as well as conduct a focus group with a sampling of participants to capture any nuances the survey may miss.