Explaining Data Collection - From Qualitative Research to a Journal Article - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Explaining Data Collection
From Qualitative Research to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types

Researchers differ in the way they collect data. Some researchers, such as the authors of this book, believe qualitative data should be collected based on a theoretical framework. Other qualitative researchers argue that theory will impose a structure on the data too early and instead rely entirely on “thick description” about how the data were collected, analyzed, and findings interpreted. When scholars believe that qualitative research requires theoretical framework they use it to guide the pursuit of their research questions (Phillips, 1986). Either way, qualitative researchers need to describe in detail how they collected the data, including the research methodologies and data sources.

If you do not use quantitative data collection techniques such as frequency counts, test scores, or Likert scales, what methods would you use? The tools of the qualitative researcher rely on words and images much more than numbers. In general, these tools are observational field notes, conversations, in-depth interviews, and document and artifact analysis. The in-depth interview is usually used. It can be a semi-structured interview where the researchers use a short list of questions as a guide during the interview but more questions are added based on the participants’ responses. Qualitative researchers listen to the participants and ask them to expand or clarify relevant issues. Seidman (2012), for example, has developed a three interview strategy. The first interview develops history/background, the second focuses on details of current experience, and the third reflects on meaning. Most qualitative researchers use interview and observation methods to collect data. They systematically observe and record the participants’ words and actions as well as describe the context. However, researchers use a variety of data collection techniques to construct a detailed account of a single or multiple case. How these techniques were used need to be described. For example, a doctoral student sought to study the leadership styles of female university presidents. She “shadowed” several of them for a few days, analyzed public documents from their respective universities, interviewed them, and asked them to write about their most and least successful decision or initiative during their tenure as president.

Activity 8.2: Qualitative Data Collection

Think about a qualitative study that you would like to conduct. Given that the main types of data collection are observations, interviews, and artifacts, what types of data would you want to collect? Make a list. Then draft an explanation of your data collection strategies.

The examples above can be adjusted to use with other data collection approaches. Qualitative studies are more convincing when researchers use multiple approaches to collect data. They become the sources of their validity. Using a combination of interviews, observations, documents, and/or artifacts enriches the quality of qualitative research because this results in triangulation, defined as evidence from multiple sources to increase validity.