Types of Information
The Life Changes Trust recognises that there will be a need for different types of data and that a combination of both quantitative and qualitative evidence is often most useful in describing the full picture of your project and its outcomes. This type of approach is commonly known as ‘mixed methods’.
This mix can provide richinsightinto what matters to people and what works best for them, as well as a sense of reach, spread, or gaps that can be gathered from some statistics about use of the activity or service.
A simple distinction is usually made between collectingqualitativeandquantitative information.
Collecting quantitative information is mostly a matter of recording things that can be counted, such as names, frequencies, numbers, and dates that are linked to theindicatorsyou have identified. Where possible you should build on any systems that you have already in place (log sheets, spreadsheets, databases etc.) and possibly adapt or add to them slightly. Be as systematic and consistent in the way that you record things as possible – this means keeping records every day, every week or every month and ensuring everyone involved in the project records things in the same way and stores information in the same place.
However, numbers alone will not tell the whole story about the work of your project – that’s where qualitative information comes in. This simply refers to the type of information that can’t easily be expressed in numbers, including people’s views, behaviours, and experiences, as well as the learning and benefits for those involved in the project. For example, the extent to which new friendships and support networks are developing, the increased levels of accessibility and satisfaction with activities, the improved ability of someone with dementia to communicate aspirations and needs. This will usually be collected in a variety of structured and semi-structured ways.
Further information that helps to answer the question when is it better to do qualitative or quantitative research?, as well as more details on the distinction between quantitative and qualitative information, is available from the London School of Economics.
You can learn more about Analysing Information elsewhere in this guide.