Data Collection Methods

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Screenshot of section 6 in the evaluation toolkit, Data Collection Methods.This is Section 6 of the Evaluation Toolkit
for the TA & D Network.
Read about the toolkit.

A number of different data collection methods can be used with formative, process, and summative evaluation approaches. This section starts with brief descriptions of two typical methods.

Three additional data collection methods will be addressed in stand-alone, separate webpages because of the more detailed discussion. For each of these three methods, we look at advantages, disadvantages, and guidelines for use. We also provide sample data collection tools, which you can customize for your own needs. The three methods we’re treating separately are:

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Record keeping with databases

Electronic databases can be used to track the number and type of target audience members (e.g., persons with disabilities, parents, teachers, other TA & D project staff) who access and participate in your dissemination methods and venues. You may find it useful to track and look at trends in the number and different types of end users who:

  • call your staff for information and technical assistance,
  • visit your website, or
  • read your e-newsletters.

You could also maintain records of the specific types of information and topics (e.g., information on student assessment accommodations), that is directly requested of your staff; the topics, specific “pages”, and other features visited or accessed on your project’s website. For example, the National Dissemination Center uses SalesForce to track information calls and emails. This database is used for a variety of purposes, including to create project progress reports, content-specific mailing lists, and to analyze staff workloads.

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Website analytics

Web analytics involve the collection, measurement, analysis, and reporting of internet data related to your project’s website for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage by your target audience. Web analytics programs can provide a range of data, in particular on:

  • number of total website visits,
  • “unique” or “new” visitors,
  • average length of time visitors spend on your website,
  • which web pages and areas were viewed, and
  • which website materials were downloaded and printed.

These types of data can be aggregated and analyzed in comparable periods (such as monthly or quarterly) to give you good information about trends over time. Web analytics applications can help TA & D projects measure the popularity of different features of their websites, and how traffic to their websites change after the launch of a new website feature or product.

Here are two examples of how web use data could be presented. The first shows basic statistics on traffic to NICHCY’s website in the month of July 2012.

Screenshot of google analytics on NICHCY's website traffic.

This is a “visitors overview” of traffic to NICHCY’s website in July 2012, using Google Analytics.


Now, here’s the other example. Also using Google Analytics, we can see the “location” of the people visiting the NICHCY website.

Screenshot from Google Analytics, showing the volume of web traffic on NICHCY's website by state.

This Google Analytics shows the location of visitors to NICHCY’s website—California, Texas, and New York visit the most!


If you’d like to keep reading about data collection methods, here are links to the three methods discussed in separate webpages:

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Suggested citation

This webpage is an excerpt from the evaluation toolkit produced by NICHCY. The suggested citation is:

To the entire toolkit
Sawyer, R. (2012). Toolkit for the OSEP TA & D network on how to evaluate dissemination: A component of the dissemination initiative. Washington, DC: National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

To this section/webpage on summative evaluation
Sawyer, R. (2012). Data collection methods. In Toolkit for the OSEP TA & D network on how to evaluate dissemination: A component of the dissemination initiative (pp. 11-12). Washington, DC: National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

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What section of the toolkit would you like to read now?

Introduction to the Toolkit

An Approach to Evaluating Dissemination

Formative Evaluation

Process Evaluation

Summative Evaluation

Data Collection Methods (you’re already here!)

Focus Groups



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