One of the greatest challenges for a starting business is taking the time to take a step back and look at the organization from an objective perspective and evaluate its current status. Business assessments provide a fair and impartial point of view that a company needs to make a sound and strategic decision on how to go about its present and future business ventures. A qualitative assessment can be helpful to businesses when implementing assessments. What is a qualitative assessment, and what are the advantages of using a qualitative assessment? The article focuses on providing readers with valuable insights about the document, including its description, types, and a guide on how to use a qualitative assessment. A section also answers frequently asked questions about the document.

What Is a Qualitative Assessment?

Qualitative assessments or qualitative methods of assessment are ways of gathering different information that produces results that are not easily measurable or quantifiable in numbers. The use of this classification of assessments is prevalent in situations when an organization requires subtleties behind the numbers they produce. It includes feelings, small actions, moods, or pieces of community history that affect the present situation. It acknowledges the fact that the experiences of individuals are subjective and that the perceptions and views of the world around them vary through different filters. Qualitative assessments do not produce numerical results. However, they involve asking questions to specific individuals to acquire answers about complex issues or observing interactions between individuals during these events. When a researcher inquires multiple individuals within a community, industry, or organization for their answers and reactions to a universal concern, there is a possibility of acquiring various results. There are different aspects and points of view and interpretation that are useful when observing complex situations. Utilizing qualitative assessments with care produces valuable and reliable information.

According to a scientific editorial entitled Publishing Qualitative Research, from 2009 to 2013, almost 15 percent of articles that are on the Family Business Review used qualitative assessments and methods. The acceptance rate of the Family Business Review ranges at 10 percent, meaning they processed more qualitative submissions in total.

Types of Qualitative Assessments

The main focus of qualitative assessments is to understand how individuals bring meaning to and experience their environment, community, society, and the world. It is a narrow scope, only applicable to particular situations and experiences, and must not interpret and generalize much broader situations. Qualitative research employs the researcher themselves as the initial means to acquire data and information. The qualitative methods of gathering information are a good start to any qualitative assessment. The procedures are useful for describing and determining a specific situation while providing insight into the intervention approach. The section below classifies the different qualitative methods of assessment with descriptions to give further knowledge to readers.

Observation: Observational techniques are methods that an individual or individuals use to gather firsthand information on various programs, procedures, and population behavior in line with the study. It provides an opportunity for evaluators to collect the necessary data on a broad range of varying behaviors to capture different interactions and openly explore and experience the topic of evaluation. Through direct observation of daily operations and activities, a researcher develops a holistic approach and perspective to understand the context within a specific project or program. It is especially significant if an event or scenario fits into or receives an impact from a sequence of events. Observation also allows an evaluator to learn about different things from participants that they are unaware of or that they are unwilling or unable to share through discussions like interviews or focus groups. The observation method is useful during the formative and summative stages of an evaluation. During the formative stage, observations are useful to determine whether project delivery and implementation are going according to plan. For hypothetical projects, observations aim to describe development sessions, examine the extent of concept understanding among participants, ask the right questions, and engage with appropriate interactions. Formative observations also provide valuable insights on teaching techniques and styles to cover vital material and knowledge.Interviews: Interviews provide different information in comparison to observations. Interviews allow evaluation teams to capture the different perspectives of participants or staff that have involvement with the project or program. For example, staff can provide early information regarding the implementation process and the encountered problems along the way. Interviews as a process for data collection start with the assumption that the perspectives of participants are meaningful and knowable with explicit experience and that their perspectives affect the flow of the project. There are two types of interviews for evaluation research: structured interviews administer carefully worded questionnaires for the project participants, and in-depth interviews happen when an interviewer does not follow a specific form. Structured interviews emphasize following carefully phrased questions to obtain the needed information. In this type of interview, the interviewer must not deviate from the list of questions, delivering it according to the wording to guarantee uniformity in administering the interview. However, for in-depth interviews, interviewers are encouraged to seek free and open responses from respondents, and there must be a tradeoff between comprehensive topics and an in-depth exploration of a more limited set of questions. In-depth interviews also encourage the perception of participants in their own words, which is a very desirable strategy for qualitative data collection. It allows the evaluator to present meaningful experiences from the perspective of the participants. In-depth interviews involve either an individual or a group of individuals.Focus groups: Focus groups combine the elements of interviewing and observation. The focus group session serves as an interview rather than a discussion group, problem-solving session, or decision-making group. Similarly, focus groups capitalize on group dynamics. The main goal of focus groups is the explicit use of the group interaction to generate the necessary information and insights that are unlikely to manifest without the interaction found in a group. The focus group method allows the observation of group dynamics, firsthand experience, insights, and discussions relating to the behaviors, attitudes, languages, etc. These focus groups range from 8 to 12 participants that share similar characteristics relevant to the project. The focus group method is originally a market research tool that investigates the appeal of different products and services to a target audience. It is now widely used in various fields, including education. Experts that utilize the focus group procedure implement the method in special facilities that use recording utilities and one-way mirror rooms to observe participants. Focus groups are valuable in answering similar questions during in-depth interviews, except it is in a social context. Situations for using focus groups include identifying and describing problems for project implementation, defining project strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations, developing fresh insights, obtaining different perspectives on project outcomes and impacts on society, and assisting with interpretations of quantitative data. Focus groups allow researchers to collect feedback from project operation and implementation and collect necessary data on project outcomes and influences for evaluation.Document studies: Existing documentation provides sufficient evidence of a group or set of people that are not observable or noticeable in another way. The information is in the form of a document. It is a document that is a record of written or recorded material not intended for the evaluation or request of a researcher. These documents are either public or private documents. Public records are records that are in an archive to attest to an event or provide accounting measures. These documents are either in an internal or external setting. External records include census reports, vital statistics reports, state office records, newspaper archives, and other business records. It aims to assist a researcher to gather vital information regarding different communities, sectors, and trends. Internal records refer to documents like student transcripts and records, annual reports, mission statements, historical accounts, budget plans, minutes of meetings, standardized test reports, employee manuals, internal memos, student handbooks, mass media reports, and program development reports, and program evaluations. Personal documents refer to first-person accounts of events or experiences. These documents include biographies, diaries, photographs, artworks, personal letters, scrapbooks, portfolios, schedules, etc. Personal records allow a researcher to see the world from the perspective of an individual and what they want to communicate with audiences.Key informant: A key informant is an individual or group that has a unique set of skills, expertise, and experience on a particular issue or intervention. They are knowledgeable about the participants of the project and have additional information that is beneficial to the researcher. A key informant can also be someone who can communicate, represent, and capture the essence of the actions of participants. Key informants can assist a researcher in developing evaluation questionnaires and answering formative and summative inquiries. Advisory groups also benefit from key informant interviews to represent accurate ideas and attitudes of a specific community, promote project legitimacy, advice, recommendations, and carry out specific tasks.Performance assessment: Performance assessments still involve qualitative methods like oral interviews, problem-solving group activities, compiling a portfolio, or creation of personal documents, including artworks, poetry, or stories. An example of the performance assessment approach is the work sample methodology that challenges management to innovate and create different plans and assessment techniques for participants during a training program. Case studies: Case studies contain information about ethnographic and participant-observer methods. They are descriptive examinations, usually of a small number, wherein the researcher immerses themselves in the community to perform daily activities, hold conversations with other people, observe ongoing exercises, and develop an individual and cross-case data analysis. Case studies provide very engaging and valuable insights into a project or application in a real-world scenario.

How To Perform Qualitative Assessments

Since there are different types of qualitative assessments available for different organizations, performing qualitative assessments based on the acquired data can prove difficult due to the lack of numerical information. However, the section below can help you perform a qualitative assessment in the simplest way possible. Follow the steps below to assess the qualitative data you have for your research.

  • 1. Identify the Purpose, Context, and Audience

    There is no one size fits all approach when handling qualitative data. It’s best to start thinking about the data analysis plan you intend to use when you are identifying the assessment questions and determining the process of collecting data. The analysis strategy must match up with the kinds of assessment questions you must answer. Decisions on data analysis assessments stem from the assessment questions, the needs of the audience, available data, and the collection process. Assessment data offers useful information on the coherence and effectiveness of a process or project. There must also be an understanding of the project scope and purpose, the assessment questions, context, and audience of the results before any analysis process occurs.

  • 2. Examining and Organizing Textual Data

    Qualitative data analysis involves identifying, classifying, and interpreting patterns and themes in the qualitative results and determining how they influence the answers at hand. Always keep in mind the assessment questions that you need to answer throughout the assessment process as there is an overwhelming amount of data with varying degrees of detail. Make sure you understand your data sets through reading and re-reading the text. Jot down necessary notes and overall impressions. Categorize and code the data according to the preset categories. If you are analyzing broader answers, proceed with a more inductive approach, finding themes that recur in the data.

  • 3. Interpret and Report the Results

    After categorizing and coding the data you have, overall themes and patterns start to be visible. You can now begin with a cross-data analysis to understand how one person’s response to the issues and themes is critical to understanding the rest of the participants. Write descriptive summaries for each of the questions. It is also beneficial to include quotes to capture the essence of responses. Make sure to protect the confidentiality of participants when reporting or sharing information with others. When analyzing open-ended results, rough estimates can become misleading for focus group results, and readers will want to have percentages of hard numbers to reflect entire populations. Identify the connections between categories because the relationships help with explaining the occurrence of events.

  • 4. Use Word Clouds To Represent Qualitative Assessment Results

    The word cloud represents keywords from the selection of text in varying sizes depending on their frequency in the responses. There are various applications and programs that the evaluator can use to generate the word cloud by inputting the text elements into a text box, and the tool instantly generates the graphical representation of the most common responses from participants. Word clouds are useful screening tools for large amounts of texts. It helps the evaluator to identify recurring words for coding themes. A challenge of using word clouds is it only targets the frequency of words and not their significance.

  • 5. Highlight the Responsibilities of Data Evaluators

    Remember that assessment data and results are valuable resources and must undergo careful management and recording. The individuals with access to the information must have the responsibility to appropriately use, share, or distribute the data.


What is the difference between qualitative and quantitative assessments?

For starters, qualitative and quantitative assessment methods produce varying results. Qualitative data have words, phrases, or sentences as results. Meanwhile, quantitative assessments bring about numerical information.

What is a quantitative assessment?

A quantitative assessment has results that come from facts and other associated information. It mainly uses numbers for data interpretation processes.

What are examples of qualitative data?

There are many different types of qualitative data in research. These include diary accounts, case studies, media recordings, transcriptions, and observations.

In research, qualitative assessments are necessary to gain information on the attitudes, behavior, and preferences of participants regarding a program or project. Implementing qualitative assessments can answer questions that quantitative assessments cannot, create a connection with communities, and acquire knowledge about underlying issues, concerns, and realities of a situation. Use qualitative assessments in different scenarios and events to complement the quantitative assessments. Conduct qualitative assessments for your organization by downloading from the 13+ SAMPLE Qualitative Assessments in PDF | MS Word, only from