Guidance for the design of qualitative case study evaluation

This guide, written by Professor Frank Vanclay of the Department of Cultural Geography, University of Groningen, provides notes on planning and implementing qualitative case study research. It outlines the use of a variety of different evaluation options that can be used in outcomes assessment and provides examples of the use of story based approaches with a discussion focused on their effectiveness.


"The attempt to identify what works and why are perennial questions for evaluators, program and project managers, funding agencies and policy makers. Policies, programs, plans and projects (hereafter all ‘programs’ for convenience) all start with good intent, often with long term and (over)optimistic goals. An important issue is how to assess the likelihood of success of these programs during their life, often before their goals have been fully achieved. Thus some sense of interim performance is needed, to provide feedback to finetune the program, to determine whether subsequent tranche payments should be made, and also to assist in decision making about whether similar programs should be funded." (Vanclay, 2012)


  • Introduction: the need for qualitative evaluation
  • A note on terminology
  • Quick overview of qualitative methods used in evaluation
  • Background: a short history of qualitative evaluation
  • Designing and conducting a story-based approach to qualitative evaluation
  • A real application of performance story reporting at the program level
  • How to undertake a performance story report evaluation
  • A personal assessment of the effectiveness of story-based evaluation
  • Speculation on the feasibility of story-based evaluation in the context of eu cohesion policy
  • Answers to some frequently asked questions 


Vanclay, F. (2012). Guidance for the design of qualitative case study evaluation, Department of Cultural Geography, University of Groningen. Retrieved from: