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Formative Research: A Guide to Support the Collection and Analysis of Qualitative Data for Integrated Maternal and Child Nutrition Program Planning

Year Published:
Resource Type:
Evaluations and Research | Technical Guidance

This guide will provide anyone with the basic information and tools they need to conduct and analyze qualitative research. It will be most useful for people who are planning programs to improve maternal and infant and young child nutrition combined with programming around improved household food security. Formative research teams should include members with experience with nutrition programming, research, and social and behavior change. Prior experience with qualitative research is not required or assumed. Although the methods reviewed in this guide are focused on infant and young child feeding (IYCF), maternal nutrition, and food security, they can be applied to numerous topics. Research should be planned carefully to collect only essential data.


The goals of the guide are to:

  • Define the key problems in maternal and child nutrition and feeding practices and local food insecurity
  • Provide an introduction to conducting formative research
  • Familiarize users with qualitative methods
  • Offer step-by step instructions on how to plan, conduct, and analyze formative research
  • Complement other qualitative formative research guides that exist.

For the most up to date information on conducting a Barrier Analysis, please see: A Practical Guide to Conducting a Barrier Analysis.