Collecting data

At the most basic level, data are considered quantitative if they are numbers and qualitative if they are words. Qualitative data may also include photos, videos, audio recordings and other non-text data. Those who favor quantitative data claim that their data are hard, rigorous, credible and scientific. Those in the qualitative camp counter that their data are sensitive, detailed, nuanced and contextual. Quantitative data best explain the what, who and when of a phenomenon while qualitative data best explain the why and how. Different techniques are used to collect quantitative and qualitative data:

Quantitative methods How to Collect Data?
Surveys/Questionnaires This most common method can either be self-administered or administered by someone else and can be face-to-face, telephone, mail, or web-based.
Pre/post Tests Surveys or measures are collected prior to an intervention among a target population and then an intervention is implemented for a period of time before recollecting the same survey or measurement data after the intervention is complete. The before and after data is compared to detect changes that may be attributed to the intervention.
Existing Databases This kind of secondary data is often used in conjunction with survey data. It includes census data, knowledge/attitude/behavior (KAB) studies, criminal justice statistics, performance data, non-confidential client information, agency progress reports, etc.


Qualitative methods How to Collect Data?
  • Looking at what is happening rather than directly questioning participants
  • Used to better understand behaviors, their social context and meanings attached to them
  • Useful for certain populations – children, infants
  • Can identify unanticipated outcomes
In-Depth Interviews
  • Can either be with, individual participants or key informants.
  • Usually provide rich data, details, insights from community members, program participants and stakeholders about their experiences, behaviors and opinions
  • Particularly useful for complex or sensitive subjects
  • Uses open-ended questions
Focus Groups
  • 8-12 people selected by a non-random method who share some characteristics or experience relevant to the research. Ideally participants do not know each other and respond to questions from a group facilitator
  • Use group dynamics to generate data and insights
  • Useful for generating ideas and strategies, defining problems in project implementation, assist with interpreting quantitative findings
  • Open-ended questions or topics designed to stimulate discussion; topics usually broader than interview questions

Qualitative studies often utilise a mix of the above mentioned data collection approaches in order to make results more reliable. The use of multiple data collection approaches to improve reliability is known as data triangulation.

In general, researchers agree that qualitative and quantitative data and methods have different strengths, weaknesses, and requirements that affect decisions about which methodologies are appropriate for which purposes.

Now you know how to collect data, but how do you analyze it? Learn more about this in the following.

Previous Page 3 of 6 Next