An Eval World Without Qualitative Data

The struggle is real. I don’t think I need to go into much detail about the east coast/west coast battle it seems we have when it comes to explaining the value of qualitative research. I encourage you to use the post below, and in your own words, express why the world, and your agency, can benefit from using qualitative data. This can be via a one on one meeting, a full presentation (don’t forget to use the cute doggie pic!), or a comment below. I didn’t provide answers in this post because each project and agency needs are unique.

What does qualitative data tell us? Really.

Isn’t it just a bunch of light and fluffy quotes?


Or maybe it’s just a lot of words cut and assembled together…

Sewing 3

I could never really get into the “science” of the whole thing. I need methods and rigor please!!!

C’mon, what’s the purpose?

Our funders don’t want to see it…stories do not equal $$$$


We’re taking people’s valuable time to write in comments or participate in a interview or focus group. For what?

black and white clock

Bah humbug!

WHY do we even bother with qualitative data?

8 thoughts on “An Eval World Without Qualitative Data

  1. Quantitative data is useful in reporting the findings and outcomes “What did we find?”. However, if you want to know how it happened (the process) and why (the explanation), especially when the outcomes are different from what was expected, qualitative data is where you’ll find the answer. As a social psychologist and a researcher who enjoys asking questions, I always wonder how and why? To me, the complete story of “What did you find?” “How” and “Why?” is much more useful and beneficial to the field instead of just the findings alone. Lessons learned and best practices for future and similar projects can be beneficial to the client. Although they may not want to include it in the public reports and briefings, they may be open to using the information for internal knowledge to guide their approach for future projects.

    • Agreed! I’m a little partial because I got my start in research reading through Michael Quinn Patton’s work. Observation and analyzing qualitative data was my life and I loved it! We need both “sides of the story” for a complete picture.

  2. As a few recent articles have pointed out, useful data tend to have both qualitative and quantitative aspects. For example, in a focus group study, you’d want to know the number of focus groups, the number of people in each group, demographic statistics about participants, etc. In a statistical analysis of a large data set, you’d want to know what the data elements mean.

  3. In most of the evaluation projects I’ve been part of, qualitative and quantitative data were equally represented. As Jessica has mentioned, qualitative data helps to put a voice, if you will, to the numbers. When you just have quantitative data in front of you, you can be left wondering “why?” when a percentage is higher/lower than you’d anticipated. When it comes to developing the findings report, I’ve always found it useful to state the quantitative numbers, followed by something qualitative that came of of the study that could provide an explanation for the quantitative data. Having them flow seamlessly into each other, I’ve found, has been very receptive to funders and stakeholders.

    • Thanks for pointing out the WHY Nicole. I love the why, I live for the why!!! When possible I like to triangulate the data. It takes more time, but provides such a well rounded picture and helps to tell the story of the data.


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