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Non-Numeric (Qualitative) Data: Collect Your Own Data

Qualitative LibGuide to support data needs of students and researchers at University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Choosing a Method for Collecting Qualitative Data


Overall Purpose



  •  Quickly and/or easily gets lots of  information from people in a non threatening way
  • can complete anonymously
  • inexpensive to administer
  • easy to compare and analyze
  • administer to many people
  • can get lots of data
  • many sample questionnaires already exist
  • might not get careful feedback
  • wording can bias client's responses
  • impersonal
  • may need sampling expert
  • doesn't get full story
  • Understand someone's impressions or experiences
  • Learn more about answers to questionnaires
  • get full range and depth of information
  • develops relationship with client
  • can be flexible with client
  • can take ime
  • can be hard to analyze and compare
  • can be costly
  • interviewer can bias client's responses
  • Gather firsthand information about people, events, or programs
  • view operations of a program as they are actually occurring
  • can adapt to events as they occur
  • can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors
  • can be complex to categorize observations
  • can influence behaviors of program participants
  • can be expensive
 Focus groups
  • Explore a topic in depth through group discussion
  • quickly and reliably get common impressions
  • can be efficient way to get much range and depth of information in short time
  • can convey key information about programs
  • can be hard to analyze responses
  • need good facilitator for safety and closure
  • difficult to schedule 6-8 people together
 Case studies
  • Understand an experience or conduct comprehensive examination through cross comparison of cases
  • depicts client's experience in program input, process and results
  • powerful means to portray program to outsiders
  • usually time consuming to collect, organize and describe
  • represents depth of information, rather than breadth

Table was adapted from the Basic Guide to Program Evaluation,

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