How do we integrate Qualitative data into our data strategy &Infrastructure?

Recently, I attended a meeting with our Data Management Advisory Team today. I am a member of the team. We were talking about Qualitative data. I must confess it was not very clear to me how this work would be integrated into our existing data ecosystem especially our data projects intake process.
How does one even consider asking if Qualitative data is being used or considered for a project? How would the data governance (sharing, collecting and managing data) setup look like?

In my experience working at the Wisconsin Dept of Health Services, most of our data projects have predominantly dealt with Quantitative data. We have had pockets of program areas that have used qualitative methods to collect data from their grantees and for other objectives they have but this is a very small footprint.

Now, to my question. I am very new to Qualitative data. I am an IT Business Analyst that gets involved with many of the data Projects (collecting Business requirements) within the WI Dept of Health Services.

Does anyone have any guidance on how our department can start adopting or at the least integrating the utilization of Qualitative data and of you have any tools, ideas or recommendations on how to integrate that data into our project intake process?

We currently have a data governance board that has the oversight and responsibility over any data sharing (internal & external to the department) that I am sure will be involved with any approval or review processes for the use of this data especially if it has PHI/PII elements.

I do not know even where to start learning about Qualitative data and how our Data Management Advisory team can start the conversation of how to start integrating this sort of data (collection & sharing) and figuring out a working and sustainable process to integrate it into our already existing data management/governance strategy, processes and projects. Any tools, resources trainings, guidance, and/or advice you can provide to us to assist us in this Genesis towards becoming a more inclusive and mature data organization where Qualitative data has a place will be appreciated.


Edwin Nyakoe-Nyasani


Hi Edwin,

These are great questions and it’s wonderful you’re considering including qualitative data in your work and analysis.

I think the first step would be to ask why you want to include qualitative data and get specific on the purpose and goals for collecting qualitative data. Qualitative data usually involves asking individuals or groups to share their stories and perspectives, and without a clear plan for how and why you will use their data, it can potentially be extractive and unethical.

Once you’re clear on your purpose and goals, you’ll then want to be sure you have the right staffing and resources to support this. Qualitative data collection and analysis takes time and skill, so you’ll want to be sure you have the right team in place to do this.

There are many more steps that can be added here, but I think it’s also very important to have a plan for sharing the data and results back with the community from whom you collected the data. These are their stories and lived experiences and it’s important to be sure you share the results with them.

Once you have these steps in place, you can start exploring specific tools and resources. Ideally you have a team member who has had formal training in qualitative methods who can help support this work. I really like Better Evaluation for access to tools. You can check out their methods drop down for lots of great options.

I hope this is a helpful start.