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Identify Types & Sources

As you already know, there are two types of data: quantitative and qualitative.

  • Quantitative data is numerical and can be counted, quantified, and mathematically analyzed (e.g., GPAs, standardized test scores, attendance patterns). Quantitative data is often considered a highly reliable source of information.
  • Qualitative data is usually non-numerical and used to provide meaning and understanding. Student narratives describing their reasons for participating in your program each month are examples of qualitative data. Qualitative data is believed to have great validity and depth.

Many evaluators will collect and use both types of data to present a reliable and valid picture of their results by providing statistically reliable numerical results and validating their meaning using qualitative data. You can learn more about how to analyze quantitative and qualitative data in the Analyze section of the Evaluation Toolkit.

People, documents, and observations are the three main types of sources that can provide data. The figure below provides examples of each.

Example Data Sources for College Access Program Evaluation

  • People – You can survey or interview individuals and/or groups.
    • Clients, program participants, nonparticipants
    • Staff, program managers, directors
    • Teachers, administrators
    • Community members, general public
    • Staff, informants, decision-makers at institutions of higher education
    • Local and state education officials
    • Funding officials, critics/skeptics, staff of other agencies/programs
    • Policymakers, elected officials, legislators
  • Documents- You can review existing documents.
    • Registration/enrollment forms
    • Grant proposals, newsletters, press releases
    • Meeting minutes, administrative records
    • Database records
    • School records and files
    • Publicity materials, quarterly reports
    • Previous evaluation reports
    • Asset and needs assessments
    • Records held by funding officials, collaborators, and/or partners
    • Publications, journal articles, books
    • Internet pages
    • Graphs, maps, charts, photographs, videotapes
  • Observations- You can observe organizational practice and programs.
    • Staff meetings, special events/activities, job performance
    • Program operations, activities, services
    • Direct service encounters
    • School and/or community environment of program participants

This figure was adapted from the Center for Disease Control’s Steps in Program Evaluation. Originally adapted from Taylor-Powell E, Rossing B, Geran J. (1998). Evaluating Collaboratives: Reaching the Potential. University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension: Madison, WI.