Monitoring and evaluation methods

There are two types of data that you can collect, quantitative and qualitative:

Quantitative data is numerical and includes audits or counts described below.

Qualitative data is the information you get when you gather people’s thoughts or feelings about an activity. Qualitative data can take many forms. You might gather people’s feedback through interviews or you could ask them to share how they feel through photographs, paintings, drama, or other imagery.

The type of data you collect will depend partly on the question you want to answer but also on the data collection methods that work best in your community.

Data collection methods

Counts

Counting is the most basic (and easiest) type of data collection. You can count the number (N) of participants, the kind of participants (e.g. age, gender, if they smoke, where are they from), and the outcome of participating in TIS activities (e.g. N referred to Quitline, N taking a smokefree pledge). It is important to collect good quality data by making sure you count the same thing in the same way each time you do an activity.

Case studies and success stories

Case studies and success stories are both ways of showing the impact of your project. This story of impact is really important and the reason your monitoring and evaluation has to go beyond just numerical counts.

CIRCA have provided a space for you to tell these stories on the six-monthly performance report.

You should provide a story that shows the impact your activities have against each of the program indicators. The focus of this story might be:

  • an effective social marketing campaign
  • community change such as more smokefree homes

    Success Story template

  • a successful smokefree event
  • organisational change.

Case studies and success stories are very similar. The main difference is the point of view (PoV) from which the story is written:

  • a case study is written from the participant PoV. So they might describe a family’s experience of going smoke free in the home and car. Many case studies focus on individual stories like the example provided here. You will see the story explains how TIS population health promotion activities encouraged this person to make a positive change.
  • a success story is written from the PoV of the organisation. An example can be found here. You can read other examples on the TIS Success Stories page.

Case studies and success stories should be specific and include relevant information (data) as evidence of the difference you have made. They can be illustrated with quotes and photos – but remember to get people’s permission to share their information. You can download templates for writing your case studies and success stories.

You can use a range of methods for collecting data for success stories including writing, drawing, drama, web sites/blogs. When using storytelling for evaluation the focus is on how individuals or groups make sense of their experiences. Story telling is increasingly being recognised as a way of capturing significant changes in people’s lives.

Examples of other creative approaches to gathering data for stories includes playing games, creating a storyboard or using photography. You can find in this Creative strategies resource.

Focus group

A focus group is a planned discussion with selected individuals to gather information, or people’s opinions. For example you might want to know what people think about your activities, or to find out what they have learnt from a social marketing campaign. The group should be run by someone who can keep the conversation ‘on topic’ without influencing what people say (they should be impartial).

It is important to know what you want to ask before going into the focus group – this Focus groups resource provides a guide to writing focus group questions.. You also need to think about how you will record what people say. Will a second person make notes on the discussion, or will you make a video or audio recording? If you use any kind of recording device, you must ask people’s permission first.

In this short video Ninti One’s Aboriginal Community Researchers show how to run a focus group here.

Interviews

Interviews are typically one-to-one question and answer sessions. Interviews are usually best carried out face-to-face, although telephone interviews are also popular. Instant messaging can also be used if your participants have the technology and are happy to use it. In this short video Sunil George from the NBPU explains in more detail how to plan and carry out interviews to collect monitoring and evaluation data.

More information can also be found in this Interviews factsheet.

In this short video Ninti One’s Aboriginal Community Researchers show you how to write open ended questions for interviews and focus groups.

Preparing open-ended questions

Yarning and Yarning Circles

Yarning is an important part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. If you want to use yarning as a way to collect monitoring and evaluation data, you must follow local cultural protocols and practices. Seeking guidance from local Elders should be your starting point.

Yarning for gathering data is recognised as a meaningful and rigorous form of knowledge production (AIATSIS 2020). You might yarn with one person or with two or three together. Or you could yarn with a larger group as part of a yarning circle. Yarning is less formal than western approaches such as interviews or focus groups. Yarning allows information to unfold through story telling in a relaxed and flexible process that is culturally safe for Indigenous people. You can read more about the principles of yarning as a data collection method here.

Yarning must be used appropriately. We recommend you:

  • Take advice from local Elder’s about whether or not yarning would be an appropriate method for you to use;
  • Work closely with local cultural advisors (Elders or others nominated by them) to develop your yarning guide;
  • Ensure you are comfortable with, and know how to apply the different types of yarning (social, research topic, collaborative and therapeutic) described by Bessarab and Ng’andu 2010;
  • Follow local cultural advice about the principles and process of collecting your data (e.g. who, where, and when).

If you are interested in learning more about yarning as a research method, a narrative review of yarning was published in 2022 by a group of Indigenous academics including Michelle Kennedy, Raglan Maddox and Dawn Bessarab. The review paper is available here.

Figure 1 based on Bessarab, D., & Ng’Andu, B. (2010)

Observation

There are two types of observation:

  • direct observation – this is where the observer is an unidentified ‘fly on the wall’ (you will need permission if you want to observe people, whether in a workplace or school or other venue/location)
  • participant observation – where the observer takes part in an activity with the participants and asks questions.

Observation can be useful when you want to find out if people are keeping to smoke-free policies. A checklist, such as this Environmental scan template created by the NBPU TIS is a good way of recording your observations.

Questionnaire survey

This is a good method of gathering information from a large number of people. Surveys collect information by asking everyone the same questions. In this short video Penney Upton from the NBPU explains how surveys can be useful to collect monitoring and evaluation data.

Survey Template

This template will help you structure your survey and ask the right questions. Examples of the kinds of questions you might want to ask can be found in the Survey question bank. There is also a template for a post workshop feedback questionnaire that you could modify to find out about participant satisfaction with educational activities.