Interviews and Focus Groups
Qualitative Data Uses
Collecting qualitative data is helpful for diving more deeply into a topic or question. Qualitative data can answer “why” and “how” questions that quantitative data often cannot and can be useful when exploring more personal or sensitive subjects. Qualitative data can also reveal more nuanced experiences or motivations of stakeholders. Frequently, summaries of qualitative data raise additional questions, often related to more detailed questions about an experience or other, related experiences a participant may have had. While carefully crafted questions can avoid unanswered questions, one interview or focus group series of questions will not be able to answer all possible questions for a few main reasons:
- Methodologically, interview and focus group question guides should retain some consistency across discussions so that themes can be extracted during analysis
- Participants often have limited time to devote to an interview or focus group; questions must be limited and prioritized to ensure that there is enough time to discuss core questions in depth
- While MAD consultants strive to understand project, program, and client nuances and details, they are often not subject matter experts and may not be aware of a specific line of questioning, if not previously discussed. The section "Closing a Study and Next Steps" below notes how MAD consultants can assist in identifying next steps to put findings into action.
Projects may require qualitative data collection only, or may benefit from a mixed methods approach (e.g., collecting survey data to inform interview or focus group questions, conducting interviews or focus groups to inform survey questions). More information on quantitative data collection can be found under Surveys and Guide to Writing Survey Questions.