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Tools and techniques

Last edited: July 03, 2013

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  • While conducting assessments, both qualitative and quantitative data can be collected, using a variety of methods. The table below outlines some of the available tools and techniques, their methods, and describes their benefits to programme design.  Note that many of these tools will overlap in their objectives and strategies (e.g. community mapping and focus group discussions) and can therefore be combined to ensure the most thorough and relevant assessment process.






  • Observations in visits to emergency-affected areas (water and sanitation services, health facilities, non-food items (NFI) distributions, camp security, food distribution and access to fuel)
  • Compares conditions against a set of pre-selected indicators
  • Typically carried out in camps or settlements but can be used to assess the safety and security in any geographic location with specific boundaries
  • Provides an opportunity to further identify gaps, risks or problems
  • Can be used (if necessary) on a regular basis so changes and new risks can be identified and addressed on an on-going basis
  • May be used to advocate with various humanitarian sectors/clusters to improve the layout of camps, distribution of services, security in camps, etc.

SERVICE MAPPING; Institutional/agency assessments

  • Key informant interviews with individuals offering different services, including health, psychosocial, legal, etc.
  • Mapping of ‘who is doing what and where’ (often referred to as the 3 Ws) through a form that is often distributed through local and national coordination mechanisms
  • Review of  service agency/institution documentation (e.g. policies, reports, guidance and training materials, records)


  • Provides insight into level of service availability and accessibility
  • Helps to determine the capacity of partner institutions and agency to engage in VAWG prevention and response
  • Can also be used to identify attitudes and beliefs of service providers
  • Provides an opportunity to identify service delivery gaps, risks or problems
  • Institutional/agency assessment are especially important for initiatives that focus directly on engaging institutions through, for example, training support, institutional policy development, technical advice for programme development, etc.
  • Situational Analysis Tool, Ward (ed.), 2004b, pg 19-50. 
  • Sample 3Ws form, Ward, 2010, pg. 53 and Annex 8.
  • Key Informant Interview Guides: GBV, in Ward, 2010, Annex 39
  • For an example of questions to ask during an institutional assessment, see the security sector module.


  • Group interviews with members of the community
  • Community mapping techniques can be included in the focus group discussions.
  • Designed to enable the community to participate in identifying its own needs. Community members identify geographic, demographic, historic, cultural, economic, and other factors within their communities that may exacerbate VAWG.
  • Allows community members to collectively determine their most significant VAWG-related problems or issues through a systematic listing and graphing exercise. By obtaining information about how communities rank VAWG problems, programs are better equipped to prioritize prevention and response strategies.
  • Community Mapping Guidelines, in Ward (ed.), 2004b, pg. 61
  • Pair Wise Ranking in Ward (ed.), 2004b
  • Causal Flow Analysis, in Ward (ed.), 2004b, pg. 65


  • Discussions based on key topics, such as access to healthcare, safety and basic needs
  • Small groups of people (10-12 people) from similar backgrounds, for example, gender, age, ethnicity or profession


  • As a method of more in-depth qualitative research, focus groups provide a means to obtain greater insights into the settings and contexts in which violence occurs, the dynamics of abuse, and how women, children, and communities are affected by this violence. Additionally, research on men can provide important insights into the causes of violence, as well as into the most effective strategies for preventing violence (Debus, 1991, in Ward, 2004).
  • Focus groups also assist in determining the survival mechanisms that women employ to deal with GBVAWG, both on their own, and with the help of their families and friends, especially those women for whom there is an absence of formal services. Understanding survivors’ pathways to recovery can improve clinical interventions and public education campaigns (WHO, 1999, in Ward, 2004).
  • Focus Group Discussion Tool, in IRC, 2012, Annex 3, Part 4
  • Focus Group Discussion Guides, in Ward, 2010, Annex 38
  • Focus Group Guidelines, in Ward (ed), 2004b, pg. 51


  • Based on a set of pre-determined questions, typically in-depth or technical in nature
  • Compare and contrast responses from different respondents
  • Allows for more in-depth examination of issues raised in focus group discussions
  • Provides an opportunity to verify and further identify gaps, risks or problems
  • Aims to identify what people (communities, service providers) know about certain topics, how they feel, and how they behave
  • Individual Interview, in IRC, 2012, Annex 3, Part 3
  • Sample Surveys in Gumucio, 2011

record reviews

  • Service provider records, statistics or other data and information
  • Protection monitoring reports in camp-settings
  • Provides a sense of issues that are documented or being reported by populations
  • Provides an opportunity to further identify gaps, risks or problems
  • Random Record Review Protocol (health sector), in Bott et al, 2010, pg. 217


  • National statistics offices
  • Data from camp management, UN agencies, cluster leads
  • Provides a description of population
  • Helps identify vulnerable groups within a population and potential risks of violence


Adapted from IRC. 2012. GBV Emergency Response and Preparedness: Participant’s Handbook, pgs. 34-35, unless otherwise noted.


Additional Tools:

Gumucio, S. 2011. Data collection. Quantitative methods. The KAP survey model (Knowledge, Attitude & Practices). Médecins du Monde. The aim of this paper is to present the different steps and rules for the preparation and implementation of quantitative surveys which must be rigorously implemented in order to make full use of the results.

Ellsberg, M. and Heise, L.  2005. Researching Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Researchers and Activists. Washington DC: World Health Organization, PATH. The WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women presents a model for research that is methodologically rigorous and yields information that can be directly applied to violence-prevention activities. Each course is adapted to take into account ongoing local research as well as the specific training needs of local partners. The course is designed to enable groups to monitor their own programs and to collect evidence to support local advocacy efforts. 

For an overview of the Participative Ranking Methodology, see Ager, A., Stark, S. and Potts, A. 2010. Participative Ranking Methodology: A Brief Guide: Version 1.1. Programme on Forced Migration & Health, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. Participative Ranking Methodology is a “mixed method” approach to data collection, in which a group of knowledgable participants are guided in generating responses to a specific question or sets of questions. It draws on both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to generate rich, contextualized data that can nonetheless be counted, ranked, and compared across or within groups.

See a comprehensive research agenda prepared by WHO and the Sexual Violence Research Initiative on conflict-related sexual violence.

See a discussion paper on research gaps on sexual and gender-based violence in emergency settings, prepared for the Gender Based Violence Area of Responsibility.

See UN Action’s literature review on conflict-related sexual violence.

Also see section on Research in Programming Essentials.