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M3.07. Conducting evaluation of the mentoring process

3. Use of Qualitative Methods

3.2. Different types of qualitative data collection methods

When collecting qualitative data, there are a number of methods that can be used, each with their own advantages and disadvantages;

  • Interviews (structured and semi-structured)
    In structured interviews, the questions are written out exactly the way they should be asked, and the interviewer should ask every respondent the questions in the same order. In a semi-structured interview, topics are listed and examples of probes are provided, and the interview becomes more of a discussion.
  • Focus groups
    Focus groups are structured discussions to understand people's perspectives, experiences or knowledge about a specific topic. A moderator suggests topics and facilitates the discussion. The goal is to discover the how and why of something, to get contextual responses rather than "yes" or "no" answers.
  • Observations
    Observations are structured means of recording the actions and interactions of participants in an evaluation. They provide an opportunity to collect data on a range of behaviours, capture interactions and openly explore the topic of interest in the evaluation.
  • Review of products (e.g., documents, recordings, videos)
    This method is important because products can be a source of data for the evaluation.
    Such materials can enable you to learn about important shifts in programme development or maturation. Document reviews also can help you formulate questions for a survey or an interview.
  • Use of Mixed Methods
    The trend in evaluation has been shifting toward mixing quantitative and qualitative methods into a single evaluation called mixed-method evaluation. This approach makes sense because each method has its own strengths and weaknesses. Combining them can lead to a stronger, more complete evaluation than a conventional evaluation that uses only one method.

Confidentiality and Anonymity
Confidentiality and anonymity are essential considerations for you and the evaluator. Your
respondents' privacy should be protected vigilantly. For example, names of participants should
never be revealed in an evaluation report. The terms "anonymity" and "confidentiality" have
different meanings and should not be used interchangeably.

  • Anonymity requires you and your evaluator to not know who the participants are. For instance, you don't ask respondents to put their names in a survey or identify themselves in a focus group.
  • Confidentiality means you and your evaluator know who the participants are, but you don't link any answers to the respondents. Any information you have that contains the person's name or personal information must be kept in a locked drawer or stored in a password-protected electronic file.