Generally speaking, there are two types of analyses: descriptive and explanatory.

Descriptive analyses describe the "what" – the program's context and history, evolution, and current operations regarding program inputs, program activities, program outputs, and participants' immediate outcomes. Descriptive analyses can be:

  • Drawn from narrative i.e. qualitative program records, focus groups, and open-ended questions from surveys and interviews to develop a narrative of the program, what it is, and how it operates.
  • Drawn from quantitative program records (e.g., attendance logs), and closed-ended questions from surveys and interviews. Such analyses can yield attendance and completion rates (outputs), average dosage per participant (an output), and average scores on measures of knowledge, skills, attitudes, behavior, and client reactions to the program (immediate outcomes). If any of your evaluation questions pertain to program impact, then your evaluator will also use descriptive statistics to assess the similarity between your program and control/comparison group members-a necessary condition for isolating the program impacts.

Your evaluator will probably conduct descriptive analyses, in one way or another, for every evaluation question.

Explanatory analyses examine associations between and among variables, seeking to address the "why" and "how" behind the "what." Explanatory analyses can:

  • Identify patterns in the qualitative data to generate hypotheses or develop theories for such things as why the program may be struggling; why certain program adaptations or improvements were made; and the perceived effects of these changes on program operations, program participation, and participant outcomes.
  • Identify patterns in the quantitative data to assess for example, whether program participation is related to the quality of instruction, whether participant outcomes appear related to program dosage, and whether program participants have more positive outcomes than a similar comparison or control group.