About This Series
Publication Date: January 2010
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Step 4. Analyze Data

Once you collect the data, you will then need to analyze the data to learn more about your community resources and needs. Your approach to analyzing the data depends largely on the type of data collected: qualitative or quantitative.

Qualitative data are typically obtained from open-ended questions, the answers to which are not limited by a set of choices or a numerical scale. For example, qualitative data include answers to questions such as “What experiences have you had working with victims of sexual assault?” or “How can services to sexual assault victims be improved in your area?”—but only if the study participant is not restricted by a preselected set of answers. These types of questions are usually asked during interviews, focus groups, or as open-ended questions on a survey instrument. They yield responses that explain in detail the participant’s position, knowledge, or feelings about an issue. Qualitative data are analyzed to look for trends or patterns in the responses. These trends or patterns are the general statements that you can make about your community.

Quantitative data are data collected in surveys or through other means in the form of numbers and are usually presented as totals, percentages, and rates. For example, quantitative data include answers to questions such as “How many hours do you spend looking for resources for your domestic violence clients?” or “How many radio announcements have you put out this year?” These closed-ended questions are usually asked on a survey instrument in which the participant circles a preset answer choice or provides a numeric response. Quantitative data are used to generate averages or percentages across the responses. These averages or percentages tell you what proportion of your respondents feel a certain way or have a certain level of knowledge about an issue.

Depending on your skills as a qualitative or quantitative data analyst, you may want to hire a local evaluator or consultant to help you analyze your data. Some questions to ask when considering whether you need outside help include the following:

  • Do you have enough experience analyzing qualitative and quantitative data to make sense of the data collected?
  • Do you have sufficient time to thoroughly analyze the data?
  • Do you have the funds to hire an evaluator?
  • Are you able to use the data to answer the needs assessment questions in the most effective way?

Assuming that funds are available, consider hiring a local evaluator if the answer to many of these questions is no. The Guide to Hiring a Local Evaluator, included in this series, can help you do this.

It is also critical to manage and protect your data. Information received through research or assessment efforts must remain confidential and protected from exposure. The Guide to Protecting Human Subjects contains additional information about protecting information collected during your needs assessment.

A Brief Note on Data Storage and Analysis

You will need to store the data you collect in a data management system that works best for you. Data management systems can include software packages such as SPSS, Microsoft Access, and Excel. Consult with key partners, your local evaluator, or experts on data management for how you should store your data.

After you store the data, you need to analyze them to understand what they mean. Data analysis techniques vary depending largely on which data management system you use and the types of data collected. Here, your goal is to glean answers to your needs assessment questions so that you have as complete a picture as possible of your community and its resources and needs. For more information on data analysis, consult with key partners, your local evaluator, or experts on data analysis. Because the data management and analysis tasks can require an inordinate amount of skill, you may want to seek assistance.