Happy Qualitative Evaluation Week

In honor of Qualitative Evaluation Week (what a great way to kick off the new year, right?) I wanted to share a link to AEA365’s blog: http://aea365.org/blog/ – and encourage folks to check out the rest of their posts this week (January 5th – 9th 2015).

I’ll be the first to admit – I have a love-hate relationship with qualitative data. On the one hand collection and analysis of qualitative data can be an extremely laborious task, but on the other hand it can reveal such meaningful and sometimes unexpected findings that I usually find it worth the time and effort to do it well.

On the one hand, I love the seemingly straightforward simplicity of crunching numbers and cranking out charts that summarize quantitative findings. On the other hand, a well-stated quote in a participant’s own words can be worth its weight in evaluative gold (if there were such a thing).

The complexity of a rich qualitative data set is a double-edged sword, with layers upon layers of meaning to decipher and unravel (what’s said + how its said + in what context, etc.), but it is capable of yielding far more insightful and profound feedback and findings than yes/no or scaled responses.

Despite the the challenges it can pose and the time/effort necessary to do it well, I guess I love qualitative data for its ability to help tell a more detailed and open-ended story about an experience, exhibit, program or event. I love it because it allows me to find things I never thought to look for, and it helps me get to the essence of “why” and “how” other impacts come to be.

Happy Qualitative Evaluation Week everyone – and Happy 2015!

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