Collecting and Gathering Qualitative Data

       With so many types of qualitative data it is impossible to specify one ‘best’ way to collect data. There must be a great deal of flexibility about how qualitative researchers proceed with data collection, but there is no room for sloppiness. Data collection must be carefully planned, executed, and controlled to gain scholarly respect. Your methodology should be completed and described in a manner that allows your peers and supervisors to understand the care and precision that went into the collection of your data.

       In one way or another, all qualitative research methods involve the accumulation of data that must eventually be analyzed and coded. These data may be transcripts from interviews or video recordings, they may be derived from documents written by others, and they may be researchers’ written observations in the form of field notes, descriptions, and memos.

       Participant interviews, focus groups, and other data sources that are collections of verbatim spoken words should be recorded, preferably using digital technology. Observational and descriptive data collection techniques require the researcher to write (or record) field notes and memos that directly relate to the research topic.

       Because the final product of the study is a written report, the data relevant to the study must be described and/or transcribed into written words. During transcription there are techniques available in Word to speed the data entry process including the creation of macros, the use of AutoComplete, and the use of keyboard shortcuts. The completed transcripts are formatted to create code documents for subsequent analysis.

       Transcript files, audio files, audio-visual files, scanned pictures, and other data files that are created during the data collection process should be named in an orderly manner that allows the researcher to identify and return to the files during later research stages. Naming schemes that use binomial and trinomial components are recommended. The Windows file system allows long file names so there is no reason to cause confusion by using unnecessarily cryptic file names.

Copyright, Christopher Hahn, 2008

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