Qualitative data collection methods are important in evaluation

Qualitative data collection methods are important in evaluation, by providing information to understand the process behind observed results and assess changes in people’s perceptions of their wellbeing. This method is being used to improve the quality of survey based quantitative evaluations by helping generate hypothesis. It is strengthening the design of survey questionnaires and clarifies quantitative evaluation findings.
These methods are characterised by the following attributes:
• They are usually open-ended and have less structured protocol
• Rely heavily on interactive interviews. The participants might be interviewed several times to follow up on an issue, clarify concepts or check the reliability of data.
• Use triangulation to increase the credibility of their findings (they might rely on multiple methods of collecting data to check the authenticity of their results)
• Usually, their findings are not generalisable to a specific population, rather each piece of evidence that can be used to seek general patterns among different studies of the same issue.
• Qualitative study takes a great deal of time, regardless the kinds of data involved
• Researchers need to record any potential useful data thoroughly, accurately and systematically using field notes, sketches, audiotapes, photographs and other suitable means
• Ethical issues around the data can be raised by this type of research and must be considered when conducting qualitative methods of research.
Documentation Review
For each qualitative study, data on the background and historical context is gathered. Whether it is not a major part of data collection, it proposes a setting, so the researcher gathers demographic data and historical factors. The collection of data can include reviewing old property transactions or obtaining information from a Web site. Knowledge and information of the history and context surrounding the subject of research comes, in part from reviewing documents.
The reviewing of documents is a non-intrusive method; minutes of meetings, logs, announcements, formal policy statements, letters, research journals and samples of free writing about the topic are all informative. These are useful in developing an understanding of the topic or group studies.
The analysis of this data collected through document review can be conducted without disturbing the service or setting in any way. The researcher is the one that determines where the emphasis lies, after the data has been gathered. Information can be checked, as can the care with which the analysis has been applied, to ensure reliability and validity. A potential weakness is the span of inferential reasoning and biases.
In depth Interviews
Qualitative researchers rely on in-depth interviewing. Kahn and Cannell (1957) describe interviewing as “a conversation with a purpose”. It may be the strategy or only one of several methods employed. To distinguish the qualitative from, for example, a journalist’s or television talk-show interview, we might speak of its width instead of its depth (Wengraf, 2001). In-depth interviews typically are much more like conversations than formal events with predetermined response categories.
The researcher can explore a few general topics to help uncover the participant’s views but otherwise respects how the participant frames and structures the responses.
This method is based on an assumption to fundamental to qualitative research. Participants’ perspective on the phenomenon of interest should unfold as the participant views it not as the researcher views it (the etic perspective).
In questioning, a degree of systematisation may be necessary, for example, a case study or when many participants are interviewed. Or even at the analysis and interpretation stage when the researcher is testing findings in structured questioning.
An important aspect of an interviewers’ approach is conveying the attitude that the participants’ views are valuable and useful.
Interviews have their strengths. An interview can yield data in quantity quickly. If more than one person participates in group interviews (focus groups), the process takes in a wider variety of information, than if there were fewer participants making the experience rich in breadth and depth. More immediate follow-up and clarification are possible. When combined with observation, interviews allow the researcher to collect the necessary data for the chosen topic.