combining qualitative and quantitative data

Mixed methods in evaluation Part 3: Enough pick and mix; time for some standards on mixing methods in impact evaluation

Tiina Pasanen's picture 1st August 2013 by Tiina Pasanen

In our third blog on mixed methods in evaluation, Tiina Pasanen from ODI focusses in on impact evaluations (IEs) – a specific type of evaluation with a lot of attention in international development right now, with hundreds being conducted every year. The clear majority of them are based on quantitative data and econometric analysis. There is much talk about the importance of combining methods to triangulate results and to better understand why something works, but in reality these mixed methods IE designs are still rare and are often failing to provide enough information for readers to follow and assess what has been done and why. As the number of mixed methods IEs is likely to grow in the next few years, should there be minimum standards as to what constitutes as a mixed methods design?

Combine qualitative and quantitative data

Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data can improve an evaluation by ensuring that the limitations of one type of data are balanced by the strengths of another. This will ensure that understanding is improved by integrating different ways of knowing. Most evaluations will collect both quantitative data (numbers) and qualitative data (text, images), however it is important to plan in advance how these will be combined.