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Collect And Analyse Qualitative (Non-Numerical) Data.

Qualitative data

“The purpose of qualitative research methods is to look for meaning (i.e., to understand the why and how behind things). It is therefore about developing richness in data based on an in-depth understanding rather than representativeness, which is the preserve of quantitative research methods.”

 (Karania, p.1, 2017, Age UK)


Qualitative data:

  • Can provide an understanding of people’s experiences and their individual outcomes in relation to a service or intervention.
  • Allow you to explore organisation culture and practices (for example, how a local council deepens its improvement culture, engages in multi-agency working with the third sector or the NHS, or implements a prevention agenda in social care).
  • Provides understandings about the impact of the social and economic environment on needs for social care support.


You may want to collect this data through interviews, focus groups, observations, or case studies. This page also contains resources on analysing qualitative data.


Probably the most common source of qualitative data is interviews.


Interviews Inspiring Impact

This web page provides an accessible guide to utilising interviews as an evidence gathering technique. It begins with some of the benefits and limitations of undertaking interviews before overviewing 3 steps in the interview process.


Conducting Interviews Wilder Research

This four-page ‘tip sheet’ is a guide to interviewing and offers information about conducting interviews. You will find an overview of types of interviews (informal, semi-structured and structured), a description of the interview process and how to avoid bias. It also has links to other useful information.


Using key informant interviews J. McKillip

This short American document contains some useful information and some questions to consider when selecting key informants to interview.


Most Significant Change (MSC)

This approach is one of several more ‘participatory’ techniques where instead of asking people to answer interview questions, you offer them the opportunity to tell ‘their story’ related to the given topic.


The Most Significant Change (MSC) technique: a guide to its use Better Evaluation

This manual provides detailed guidance on how to use the Most Significant Change approach. It is full of practical examples that supplement the information on the MSC technique.

Focus groups

Focus groups. Social research update issue 19 University of Surrey

This brief guide explains what focus groups are and gives the reasons for choosing focus groups as a method. It also gives an overview of the benefits and limitations of focus groups and ethical issues for consideration.


Data collection Wilder Research

This guide provides accessible information about conducting interviews and focus groups. It contains practical tips to consider when planning focus groups.


Evaluation methods and tools Evaluation Scotland

Evaluation Support Scotland have developed a series of short guides to gathering information for evaluating services. These include methods that could be particularly useful when people using services have limited spoken communication.

There are individual guides on the following data collection methods:


·         Appreciative questions

·         Mapping the journey

·         Body maps

·         Meeting record

·         Capturing casual moments

·         Observation

·         Change record template

·         Questionnaire

·         Choosing pictures

·         Relationship map

·         Creative writing

·         Service use map

·       Emotional touchpoints

·         Sticky wall

·     Evaluation wheel

·  Stretch or positive statements

·         Focus groups

·         Tactile feedback

·         Interviews

·         Taking stock in a time of change


Introduction to research methods Age UK

This resource includes a guide to deciding how many respondents are needed in qualitative research and a guide about collecting socio-demographic information.



Observation can be a valuable method for gathering data in appropriate settings.


Evaluation briefs no 16 Centres for Disease Control and Prevention

This 2-page briefing provides a practical introduction to the use of observation as a method of collecting data. It poses questions to consider when deciding whether observations are the best method for your purpose.

Other resources

The resources by Evaluation Support Scotland and Age UK referenced in the focus groups section also contain guidance about conducting observations.


Case studies

Sometimes evidence can be collected in a case study.

Using case studies to do program evaluation California Department of Health Services

This document provides guidance about when case studies are an appropriate method. As well as providing practical guidance, it has a short section on reliability and validity issues when using case studies.

Analysing qualitative data

Qualitative research can produce large amounts of data. There are several techniques that will result in the key messages from the data being identified.


Analyse data Better Evaluation

This web resource provides information on content analysis, thematic coding, framework matrices, timelines, and time-ordered matrices.


Evaluation toolkit Life Changes Trust

There is a section in this toolkit on analysing qualitative data that covers content analysis, thematic analysis, and framework analysis.