There are multiple methods and tools that can be used to collect data, but you must decide which method(s) will best answer your research questions. In this section, you will learn what should be considered when determining how you will collect data. You will also learn about several data collection methods and tools. Additionally, information on how to best select a sample and increase participation rates will be discussed in this section.
Factors to consider before selecting a data collection method
Before you select an appropiate data collection method, there are three main factors that should be carefully considered.
Number 1: Consider the purpose for conducting the evaluation.
- You must carefully consider what you want to learn from this evaluation project and which methods and tools will provide you with the most valid and meaningful data.
- Your research questions should help drive the selection of the appropriate data collection method(s) and tools.
- Another thing to consider when selecting the appropriate method is the audience you are trying to reach.
- Funders and a board of directors will be interested in very different types of data than program staff.
- Thus, it is important that you consider the audience when selecting your data collection methods to ensure that the data will satisfy the needs of your primary audience, as well as enable you to present meaningful results to other types of audiences (O’Sullivan, 2004).
Number 2: Consider the evaluation design.
- The data collection method appropriate for your evaluation design will differ greatly depending on whether you want or need to use quantitative data, qualitative data, or both (a mixed methods approach).
- Additionally, consider your evaluation project timeline and determine what can be reasonably completed within the time constraints. Some data collection methods require a greater time investment than others.
Number 3: Carefully consider the availability of resources for the project (e.g., the participant pool for selecting your sample, the budget for the project, and the staff available to assist on the project).
- Some methods are much more costly and require more participants, staff, and expertise than others.
The table below provides a quick summary of the things you should consider when deciding on which data collection methods to use for your evaluation project.
- What are your research questions? Which methods will help you best answer them and provide the most reliable and valid data?
- Who is your primary audience? What types of data will make the most sense and be the most useful to them?
- Do you need quantitative data, qualitative data, or both?
- How long is your evaluation project timeline? How much time was budgeted for data collection and analysis?
Availability of Resources
- What is your evaluation budget? How much can you allocate for data collection?
- What is the availability of staff for this project? What are their areas of expertise? Will you need to hire external staff to support the project?
- How large is your participant pool? What sample size will you need?