Qualitative data is also an important of gender-assets research, bringing to light dimensions of the issue that are difficult to capture with statistics or surveys. To thoroughly understand gender relations, researchers must also examine additional aspects of well-being, such as status, self-esteem, empowerment (or disempowerment), vulnerability, issues of social differentiation, social norms and, most importantly, self-perceptions by individuals and communities of what it means to be “male” or “female” in a given society. Nonetheless, qualitative data usually draws from a smaller sample of people and thus can be more subjective and difficult to draw out general patterns. The next paragraph highlights the benefits and challenges of this method.

For more detailed information about qualitative methods see the Methods section of the Gender and Assets Toolkit.


  • Captures dimensions of gender-assets data that cannot be described through numbers and statistics. For example, risks that are faced by men and women may be culture specific and difficult to get at using standard survey questionnaires without prior qualitative work, such as collecting life histories or focus group interviews to better understand dynamics surrounding major risks.
  • Allows for greater flexibility to ask and probe about interesting findings. When collecting asset data, there are often important gender differences in the spectrum of asset ownership that may not be accurately captured in household surveys with predetermined answers. For example what it means to “use” or “control” a given asset may be entirely different from what it means to “own” that asset and differences in categories of asset ownership may fall along gender lines with important distinctions not easily captured in surveys.  There may be additional qualitative differences in the kinds or types of assets that male and females own which only emerge from in-depth discussions with the respondents themselves.
  • Qualitative research also allows respondents to express their own opinions freely, thus allowing researchers to better understand why men and women may accumulate different types of assets in the first place. Ethnographic methods such as participant observation can provide key insights into gender roles in agriculture (and non-agricultural) activities, and prolonged residence in villages may reveal aspects of intra-household negotiations, hiding of assets, or sensitive topics that respondents may not reveal in surveys.


  • Accurate data collection requires greater training and expertise. Because qualitative methods are less pre-specified than household or other quantitative surveys, they require more on-the-spot analysis by the person collecting the data to know what issues and ideas to follow up. In comparison, in quantitative surveys enumerators are usually trained to ask questions in a standardized manner, and most of the analysis is done using statistical analysis back in the office.  As a result, finding skilled qualitative researchers who understand the topic area may be more difficult than finding survey enumerator teams.
  • While the data collected is more thorough, it is longer and less wieldy (more difficult to summarize). Collecting, analyzing, and writing about qualitative data requires a greater amount of time and effort.

Additional Resources

  • Presentation on Qualitative Methods for Monitoring, Evaluation and Impact Assessment. Access it here.
  • Girl centered program design: a toolkit to develop, strengthen and expand adolescent girls programs.  The Population Council.  Includes examples of participatory rapid assessment methods.  Access it here
  • Overview of Participatory Action & Reflection (PRA) Methods from IIED.  Access it here 

Qualitative Guides, Instruments & Checklists

IFPRI Project on Resettlement, Investment & Gender Dimensions of Land Rights: Research on Challenges and Opportunities in Uganda, 2011