Quantitative and Qualitative Data Collection Methods in Monitoring and Evaluation
There are various methods of collecting data in monitoring and evaluation. The two most common ones are;
- Quantitative Methods
- Qualitative Methods
Quantitative and qualitative methods are used to generate different types of data and they both pursue different approaches of collecting, analysing, and using data. Quantitative data is usually expressed in numbers (e.g. prices, units, proportions, ratios, and rates of change), while qualitative data is expressed as words (e.g. stories, statements, quotations, paragraphs, and case studies).
10 Differences between Qualitative and Quantitative Data Collection Methods
- In qualitative methods, data is expressed in form of words while in quantitative methods, it is expressed in form of numbers.
- In qualitative methods, data collection uses open-ended questions in surveys and interviews, observation, focus group discussions, and case studies.
– In quantitative methods, data collection uses closed questions in surveys, direct measurement, and digital data collection.
- In qualitative methods, data analysis is done through summarization, reduction and scoring, and in-depth analysis of individual cases.
– In quantitative methods, data analysis is done using statistical data methods such as correlations, averages, and regression analysis.
- In qualitative methods, data sampling is deliberately done for the most interesting cases.
– In quantitative methods, data sampling is done for large, random samples.
- Qualitative methods use broadly defined qualitative indicators or questions while quantitative methods use specific, measurable, numeric indicators.
- Targets/milestones in qualitative methods are difficult to define or communicate while in quantitative methods, targets/milestones can easily be defined or communicated.
- Qualitative methods involve narrative collection and presentation of data while quantitative methods involve numeric collection and presentation of data.
- Qualitative methods are rarely used in qualitative inquiry, as opposed to quantitative methods which are often used in experimental and quasi-experimental methods.
- The typical monitoring questions in qualitative methods ask;
- How or why did something happen?
- For whom?
– The typical monitoring questions in quantitative methods ask;
- How much?
- How many?
- How often?
- Data obtained by qualitative methods is stored as words or attached reports and the processing is less automatic.
– Data obtained by quantitative methods is stored as numbers and the processing is largely automatic.
Both methods are important, seeing as quantitative methods produce quantitative data, whilst qualitative methods result in qualitative data. There have however been fierce debates within the evaluation and research communities revolving around which methods; whether quantitative or qualitative, are the most appropriate for assessing change, and under which conditions. Some people value quantitative data most, whilst recognizing qualitative data as a useful and important supplement. Others prefer qualitative data, whilst in agreement that numbers also play a role while another group, and now by far the largest, see both methods as complementary. This group acknowledges that to build on the strengths of both methods and minimize their relative weaknesses, quantitative and qualitative methods should be combined.
The debate around quantitative and qualitative methods has now been replaced by a growing consensus acknowledging the importance of both and the strengths that can be drawn from combining them. This has created a greater interest in mixed methods of evaluation, which can be defined as the combination of qualitative and quantitative methods in a single evaluation. If carrying out a quantitative evaluation, the appropriate quantitative standards should be followed and standardized statistical rules used. In the case of a qualitative evaluation, the best practice guidelines should be used and if it is a mixed methods evaluation, it should be done in accordance with the appropriate standards and the best practices of both methods. To learn more with regard to MEAL data collection, register for a Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability & Learning (MEAL) programme today.