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Section 15. Qualitative Methods to Assess Community Issues

What are qualitative methods of assessment?

___Qualitative methods of assessment yield information that can’t be expressed in numbers

___Qualitative methods include:

  • Individual and group interviews
  • Observation
  • Focus groups
  • Community meetings
  • Interpretation of records, transcripts, and other quantitative data

In order to make your qualitative results as reliable as possible:

___Report accurately and completely

___Frame the right questions and direct them appropriately

___Use the method that can best help you answer the questions you’re asking

___Sort out your own and others’ subjective feelings and comments from objective reality, and try to make sure that your findings are objective

Why use qualitative methods of assessment?

___They answer questions that quantitative measures can’t

___They connect directly with the population and the community you’re concerned with

___They can get at the underlying realities of the situation

___They involve the population of interest, or the community at large, in helping to assess the issues and needs of the community

___They often allow for a broader examination of the situation or the community than quantitative methods do

___They allow for the human factor

When would you use qualitative methods of assessment?

___When what you need is qualitative, descriptive information

___When you’re trying to understand the reasons and motivations for people’s behavior, or how they operate in particular situations

___When you’re analyzing quantitative data

___When you’re trying to develop suggestions and recommendations

___When you want to involve the community in assessment as directly as possible

___When you’re doing community-based participatory research (i.e., involving the community directly in planning and implementing assessment)

How do you use qualitative methods of assessment?

___Decide what it is you want to know

___Choose the method best suited to finding that information

___Choose the people who will gather the information, and, if necessary, train them

___Determine from whom and from where you need to gather the information

___Gather the information

For interviews:

___Let the interviewee(s) choose the space

___Dress for the comfort of the interviewee(s)

___Get permission beforehand to record or photograph the interview

___Record carefully the time, place, circumstances, and details of the interview

___Think out and frame your questions carefully, and ask directly for the information you’re seeking

___Ask open-ended questions


___Don't cut people off too quickly

___Confirm what you're told by checking with others to the extent that you can

___In group interviews, facilitate by encouraging everyone to participate, preventing any one person from dominating, and keeping the focus on issues and opinions rather than personalities

For observation:

___Think carefully about the questions you want your observation to answer

___Determine where and whom to observe to answer these questions

___Determine when and for how long observation should take place

___Determine what you should observe and record

___Record your observations

___Analyze the information

___Make and carry out a plan to address the issue or problem you’ve identified

Phil Rabinowitz