Vanderbilt University Assessment Website

Choosing Assessment Methods


Surveys are the most commonly used assessment method. Surveys are useful tools for collecting information regarding attitudes, beliefs, experiences, values, needs, demographic information, perceptions, etc.

When To Use Surveys

As an assessment tool, surveys should be employed when the goal is to draw relatively quick conclusions regarding the perceptions of a target population. Surveys can reach a large number of people in a short amount of time and typically produce data that is easy to analyze.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are an assessment method in which a small group of individuals is assembled together to gain feedback and insight into a particular product, program, service, concept, etc. In a focus group, questions are asked in an interactive setting in which participants are free to talk with other group members.

When To Use Focus Groups

Focus groups are best used when group discussion or interaction among people would bring out insights that would not be ascertained through individual interviews or survey items. Additionally, focus groups are useful when rich data is needed and there aren’t sufficient resources available to conduct individual interviews.


Interviews are one-on-one data collection events that allow for direct questioning of research subjects. There are three main types of interviews – each resulting in very different quantitative (numeric) and/or qualitative (non-numeric) data outcomes. Interviews can be conducted either in person or via the telephone.

When To Use Interviews

In respect to assessment, interviews are best used when the purpose is to gain in-depth insight into individuals’ perceptions, establish personal contact with participants, and/or follow-up on prior survey findings.