In our evaluation work at the Improve Group, we regularly collect data from stakeholders. We use a comprehensive approach to evaluation and often collect many different types of data for a single project. If you’ve read our Participant Primer Series, you’ve learned about the different methods the Improve Group uses while working with human subjects and the data they provide. You may now be wondering what we actually we do with the data after we collect it from stakeholders. After the data is collected, we compile it to help inform our reporting, using quantitative and qualitative analysis. Earlier this month, Leah wrote about the use of quantitative versus qualitative data. In brief, quantitative analysis is used for numerical data, such as survey items where we ask participants to rate items on a scale from one to ten. Qualitative analysis is used for any type of free-response question. We collect this data through interviews, focus groups, open-ended responses on a survey and observations. I find quantitative analysis to be more of a straightforward, but rigid process. We decide ahead of time what associations we will look for in the data and then run analyses using software. We use analytical software packages such as SPSS, Access and Excel, depending on the complexity of our data. The findings are used to make charts and graphs to provide stakeholders with a concise picture of our findings. There is more room for creativity and flexibility with qualitative analysis. However, it is important to analyze this data systematically as you would any other data source. A systematic analysis method will also help you manage a large amount of data that may otherwise be overwhelming to tackle. We use qualitative data from interviews, focus groups, surveys and observations and often compile open-ended responses in a spreadsheet which we use to identify themes across respondents and across data sources. The findings are used to write report narratives. Unlike quantitative numbers and charts they often provide a more “human” side to the stakeholder’s story. Quantitative and qualitative data are both valuable, and often complimentary, information collected during the evaluation process. Used together, they help us provide a more comprehensive description of findings than we would be unable to provide using just one method alone.