AEA365 | A Tip-a-Day by and for Evaluators



Bloggers Series: Susan Eliot on a Qualitative Research Blog

I’m Susan Eliot, principal of Eliot & Associates, a qualitative research firm in Portland Oregon and I write a qualitative research blog.

Rad Resource –The focus of my blog is applying qualitative methods in real life situations. As evaluators, most of us have taken a course or two on the “How To’s” of conducting qualitative studies, but actually pulling it off in the field is usually another story. I write from my own experiences and occasionally feature interviews I’ve conducted with other qualitative researchers. My blog is the only one I’m aware of that focuses exclusively on qualitative methods. On average, I publish two articles per month.

Hot Tips – favorite posts: I blog about a variety of qualitative methods—two-person interviews, telephone focus groups, evaluation stories, etc.—but also explore the universal aspects of qualitative methods—everything from information-rich sampling to reverence in qualitative work. Here are a few examples:

Lessons Learned – why I blog: I started blogging a little over a year ago right after seeing the movie, Julie and Julia, and haven’t stopped since. I was inspired by Julie’s fervor to blog about her latest creation no matter how tired she was at the end of the day. It’s the same for me. When you’re passionate about something, blogging about it becomes a compulsion (for me and Julie anyway!).

Lessons Learned – a public service: Although, my undercurrent to blogging is marketing my services, that’s not my primary purpose. I want to share what I’ve learned with students, new researchers and others who I think may benefit from my experience. There’s so much about implementing qualitative strategies that can’t be taught from a textbook or in a classroom.

Lessons Learned – continuous learning: Blogging allows me to have a more examined practice—one in which I can discover what it is I’m actually thinking and to unpack what I intuitively do. It also stimulates me to read and talk to others more, which causes me to learn more.

This winter, we’re running a series highlighting evaluators who blog. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.



  • Enid Schmidt on Three Free Qualitative Methods Resources to Elevate Your Inquiry · AEA365 · January 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    […] Resource – the Listening Resource: I was introduced to Susan Eliot’s blog when she wrote about it on aea365 in December of 2011, back when it was called the Qualitative Research Blog. This is my “go-to” […]


  • Nat · January 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    This is great! I went to your blog to try to download your handout and unfortunately I get a 404 not found error when I click on the handout link. Hopefully this is just a temporary glitch! Thanks.


  • Stephen J. Gill · December 30, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Susan Kistler, I wouldn’t say that my blog is “qualitative-focused”, but I do post from time to time about the Success Case Method in evaluating learning interventions. This approach, developed by Rob Brinkerhoff, emphasizes the use of success stories in evaluation. Sometimes we want to know what is possible when everything goes right. Failures and unsuccessful learners can’t tell us very much about how to achieve success and how to improve programs.


  • Susan Eliot · December 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Marty,

    Thanks so much for commenting. You’re absolutely right about the importance of doing a balanced evaluation. If the story methodology was the only approach used to evaluate this program’s effectiveness, it would be insufficient. But it was actually one of several components of a mixed method approach. In this case, the school district had been collecting quantitative data on student outcomes for several years. When over 90 percent of students consistently showed improvement over subsequent years of evaluation, program officials and funders wanted to look deeper–to unpack the successful outcomes revealed in the numbers. The stories were a mechanism to do that and put a human face on student achievement. My approach was based in “The Most Significant Change” methodology. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain further.


  • Admin comment by Susan Kistler · December 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    Susan’s is one of the only blogs I know about focused primarily on qualitative analysis (and with an evaluation bent no less!). So glad that she has contributed here. Does anyone know of other qualitative-focused blogs?


  • Marty Henry · December 29, 2011 at 8:49 am

    Very interesting, Susan. It’s good to know this Blog is out there. I read your Great Student Stories blogs and I’m wondering why you only chose to highlight the stories of students in the program who were successful. In order to tell the complete story of the program wouldn’t stories of unsuccessful students be just as important? It’s always nice to be able to show successes in multiple ways, but there is much to learn from those students who are not as successful when conducting an evaluation.

    Thanks for sharing your Blog.

    Marty Henry


  • Alexey Kuzmin · December 29, 2011 at 1:13 am

    You have a great blog, Susan! I will follow it. Information on the Two-Person Inteview was new for me. I have found several other related publications on the web and published a post for my Russian-speaking colleagues in my Russian blog. Thank you for sharing!


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