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Section 6

M&E: Methods of Data Collection

There are four broad approaches to collecting data for M&E.

(i) Surveys of Participants 

  • On a single occasion early in the programme for individual diagnostic purposes to identifying participants’ strengths and weaknesses and the proportions of different types of participants requiring particular types of assistance.

  • On a before-and-after basis to assess the nature and degree of any changes in the participants – which are presumed by the theory of change. This also enables the identification of the proportions of participants achieving particular outcomes.

  • In the after survey it is best to survey only those who have achieved a particular threshold of attendance (i.e., those who are expected to have benefited from all aspects of the programme). 

  • Such information is often vital for illustrating the relative effectiveness of programmes (i.e., for whom does it work best?). This will require also collecting information about personal characteristics, such as age, sex, educational qualifications, ethnicity which might influence the effectiveness of the programme. However, such information might be collected via the enrolment or mentoring processes and can be related to the relevant data in the analysis process. (See Section 9) 

(ii) Small Group Discussions

  • Typically involving six to ten participants, they can provide a valuable in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions and experiences that are not always possible through pre-defined quantitative survey data. 


  • Usually organised around a topic list, which provides a broad structure to the discussion and ensures comparability if more than one facilitator is involved in several groups. 

  • Less formal discussion groups can cover a range of issues, whereas a more structured focus group would normally seek to explore in depth a more limited number of issues.

  • Can assess participants’ perceptions of various aspects of the programme while also developing their communication and social and interpersonal skills.

(iii) Observation of behaviour

Although this is subject to the subjectivity of the observer, if done systematically via the use of a theoretically informed standardised observation schedule, it can provide information to assess the possibility of social desirability bias (see Section 6.3) in self-completed questionnaires, in which people might misrepresent or misunderstand how they behave. Some observation schedules are included in Section 7.


(iv) Mentoring

  • The process of mentoring involves debate, discussion, observation and the collection of data regarding participants’ needs and their progress in the programme. (see Sections 5.2 and 5.3) 

  • The process is also developmental as it is will contribute to an increased critical self-awareness by the participants and enable the mentor to better understand and assist participants’ developmental needs. 

  • Many of the scales outlined in Section 7 can be used as a basis for such discussions. The use of such scales will enable mentors to better understand what are often generally vague terms and ensure that all aspects of the complex issues will be explored. Such an approach may be especially useful in identifying areas of need that participants are sometimes unable to articulate clearly or are initially unwilling to discuss with project staff.

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