Data collection methods

This section is designed to allow you simple access to information and resources that will assist you to select evaluation and research data collection methods. In addition to the summaries of the methods provided in the links below, the Better Evaluation website provides a detailed overview of a larger variety of data collection methods.

Surveys and Interviews

Focus Groups


Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

When deciding on which data collection methods to use you should consider triangulating and “thick description” to increase the rigor of your findings.


Triangulation is used to address the validity of the data.[1] Triangulation methods use multiple forms of data collection, such as focus groups, observation and in-depth interviews to investigate the evaluation objectives. Utilising multiple data collection methods leads to an acceptance of reliability and validity when the data from the various sources are comparable and consistent.[2,3] Using more than one person to collect the data can also increase its reliability. This, however, will significantly increase the cost of the evaluation. Additionally, theory triangulation provides new insights by drawing on multiple theoretical perspectives.[4]

Thick description

Substantial description and documentation, often referred to as “thick description”, can be used to further explore a subject.[5] This process provides a thorough description of the “study participants, context and procedures, the purpose of the intervention and its transferability”.[5] Thick description also includes the complexities experienced in addition to the commonalities found, which assists in maintaining data integrity.

The use of documentation provides an ongoing record of activities. This can be records of informal feedback and reflections through journals, diaries or progress reports. The challenge of documentation is that it requires an ongoing commitment to regularly document thoughts and activities throughout the evaluation process.


  1. Barbour, R. 2001. Education and debate. British Medical Journal 322 (7294): 1115-1117.
  2. Golafshani, N. 2003. Understanding reliability and validity in qualitative research. The Qualitative Report 8 (4): 597-607.
  3. Ovretveit, J. 1998. Evaluating health interventions. Berkshire: Open University Press.
  4. Nutbeam, D., and Bauman, A. 2006. Evaluation in a nutshell. North Ryde: McGraw-Hill
  5. Bowling, A. 1997. Research methods in health: Investigating health and health services. Place Published: Open University Press.