Evaluation is the systematic collection and assessment of information related to the outcomes, operations or processes of a policy structure, organization or relationship. It is necessary to ensure the accountability, effectiveness and sustainability of a project, making it a necessary part of project management for any successful organization. After you determine your general approach and establish an evaluation framework, you will need to choose your evaluation tools.
Qualitative research provides detail-rich case studies, personal stories and experiences. It is most useful when evaluating process and human impacts. Michael Q. Patton, an authoritative evaluation scholar, says the three main tools of qualitative inquiry are interviews, observations and documents. Focus groups and visual documentation also support qualitative evaluation. Emerging qualitative tools such as photovoice, participatory video and action research provide unique data and engage stakeholders in the evaluation process.
Quantitative research renders statistical and numerical data. This data is collected through surveys, experiments or numerical analysis of other sources. Sampling, bias and counterfactuals are all important in quantitative evaluation. Qualitative data from interviews and focus groups can be analyzed quantitatively through qualitative coding, which enables them to be statically represented. Tools such as Tableau Public and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) help users create data visualizations from quantitative evaluations.
"Toolbox" evaluations are ready-to-use evaluation tools that have been crafted by organizations or field-specific scholars. They outline the step-by-step process of the evaluation and are often accompanied by worksheets, diagrams and other premade tools. "Toolbox" evaluations are often affiliated with qualitative approaches because the indicators and procedures involved are complicated and vary depending on the target group.
Your evaluation tool should reflect the overall objective of your evaluation and the indicators you are trying to measure. Detailing process lends itself to qualitative tools while large-scale aggregate efficiency evaluations need quantitative tools. Many evaluations will require a mixed-methods approach utilizing quantitative and qualitative tools to satisfy an array of audiences. "Toolbox" approaches to evaluation are helpful for organizations that are new to evaluation and need guidance before they set out on their own.