It is important to contextualise and draw conclusions from the information you have analysed. Information needs to be interpreted based on fair and careful judgements.
As information can be interpreted in different ways, greater understanding is normally achieved by involving others, perhaps as a small group, and discussing the information from differing perspectives. This can be a wonderful time to include your beneficiaries and other key stakeholders. Not only does this ensure that your project is inclusive of those voices you seek to represent, it also acts as a powerful check on your data. Sharing your initial findings with your beneficiaries could help lead to deeper understandings and catch potential misunderstandings.
Your evaluation questions should be your guide, and you need to consider how you will make sense of the results in order to answer those questions as truthfully and completely as possible.
Where possible, compare your findings with similar evaluations. If you are delivering activities across multiple settings, you might compare findings for beneficiaries within a single setting or between similar settings to understand what works in similar contexts.
Take time as a group to make sense of the evidence. Think about what the evidence is telling you regarding the usefulness of your activities, the benefits arising from them, and the unmet needs or work still to do.
As you start to draw conclusions from your evidence, you will need to ask yourself additional questions, seen below. Remember to be open and honest in your responses.
These questions are available as a template for you to download here.
You should check progress in relation to theoutputs(deliverables) andoutcomes(changes), as well as any associated milestones or targets. Also, think through how you might make comparisons with the situation before your project existed (thebaselinesituation) or other relevant pre-defined standards or measures.
As a group you should extend this to explore the implications for your organisation and project activities. Further guidance is presented in Acting on the Evidence.
The resources provided in the Analysing and Reporting Information sections of the toolkit will generally also include discussions of interpreting findings.
If you would like to read about this in more detail, Robson’s Real World Research has chapters on the analysis and interpretation of both qualitative and quantitative data. Robson also offers advice for integrating qualitative and quantitative data in your analysis.