Linking Your Research Questions and Data Collection Methods

Carefully review your evaluation purpose and research questions to determine which data collection method or combination of methods is most appropriate for your evaluation project.

It is important to triangulate your data collection methods.

  • This means, using a variety of different methods to collect data instead of relying on just one type.
  • Triangulation provides data from multiple perspectives and helps reduce the effects that the limitations of any one particular method may have on your data and conclusions.
    • For example, you can supplement what you learn during a participant interview with document reviews and/or observations, thus reducing the effects of the participant’s potential biases or misinformation (Maxwell, 1996).
  • Once you have selected your data collection method, it is important to map these back to your original research questions to ensure that you will be able to answer all of your questions using the most appropriate method(s).

The table below shows the types of research questions each data collection method is most appropriate for.

Data Collection Method Forms of Research Questions
Document Reviews Who? What? Where? How many? How much?
Surveys Who? What? Where? How many? How much?
Interviews and Focus Groups Who? What? Where? How? Why?
Observations Who? What? Where? How many? How much?
Case Studies Who? What? Where? How many? How much? How? Why?

 

After you have decided which methods are most appropriate for answering which research questions you can map out which method(s) will be used to answer each question on an “evaluation crosswalk” table (O’Sullivan, 1991). The table below provides an example of an evaluation crosswalk table.

  Data Collection Methods
Research Questions: School Document Review Student Exit Survey Follow-up Family Interview
1. What percentage of our 2007-08 program participants graduated from high school on time? X    
2. What did our program participants expect to do in the Fall after they graduated from high school? (e.g., work,
pursue postsecondary education, join military, etc.)
  X  
3. What are our program participants actually doing after they graduated from high school? (e.g., work, pursue postsecondary education, join military, etc.) X X  
4. How did our program prepare participants for what they are doing after they graduated from high school?   X X

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