The selection of appropriate methods is fundamental to the success of any evaluation.  The purpose and use of the data to be collected will determine those methods. For more details, please see the Methods section of this toolkit.

The choice of methods will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How much you believe you already know and to what extent you are open to genuine discovery and insight
  • What you are trying to assess, explore and uncover, and whether you are trying to assess, audit or verify progress
  • The likelihood of securing that information
  • The capabilities, experiences and understandings of your participants
  • The available resources of your organisation (capacity, costs, time, expertise)
  • The intended audience for the findings (e.g. funders may have specific needs)

Some techniques and approaches are better suited to some types of research than others.  The benefits and challenges of various methods are covered elsewhere in this guide.  Some examples of which types of questions are suited for particular methods can be found in the table below. You should carefully consider each option before deciding which to use.

Possible Aim

Possible Method

I want to know a lot of people’s responses to very particular questions.

Surveys and Questionnaires

I want to keep track of how engaged the young people are during our activity.

Observations

I want to see if there are any themes in the observation notes our volunteers have been taking at the end of every session.

Document Analysis

I want to understand all the details of why a service worked for the service users.

Interviews

I want to engage a marginalised population that has difficulty communicating in traditional research studies (e.g. non-verbal adults, small children, language barriers, etc).

Participatory methods, Story-based methods, Design-led methods

I want to know if there is a connection between a young person’s attendance at my programme and a young person’s attendance at school.

Monitoring attendance and Quantitative Analysis*

Once you have selected your data collection method(s), it is important to map these back to your original evaluation questions to ensure that you will be able to answer all of your questions using the most appropriate method(s).  Carefully review your evaluation questions to determine which data collection method or combination of methods is most appropriate for your evaluation project.  

Since there are many different methods appropriate for each type of question, it is often helpful to use a combination of methods. This can enhance the quality of data collected, strengthen the validity of the findings, and promote greater inclusion in the research process. For planning purposes, you can map out which method(s) will be used to answer each question in an 'evaluation crosswalk' table, as in the example below.

  Evaluation crosswalk table

Evaluation crosswalk table

The Life Changes Trust has also created a template, available for download here.

Using a combination of methods can enhance the quality of data collected, strengthen the validity of the findings and promote greater inclusion in the research process.

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