Monday, February 29, 2016

Gathering Information and Data

One-to-one interviews

It can be face to face, telephone, or other technologically-aided means. There are three types: structured interviews (use of questionnaires based on predetermined and identical set of questions), semi-structured interviews (list of themes to be covered, the interview can omit or add to some questions or areas, depending on the situation and the flow of conversation), and unstructured (informal discussions where the interviewer wants to explore in-depth a particular topic, pre-deicided range of topics in the discussion.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are used to gather data, usually in the forms of opinions, from a selected group of people on a particular and pre-determined topic. The researcher creates a relaxed atmosphere and records in some way what is being said.

Participant Observation

The following are the roles a researcher can adopt:

Complete Participant
 - identity and purpose of researcher is not revealed.
 - the researcher attempts to become a full covert member of the group.

Complete Observer
 - purpose of the research activity is not revealed
 - researcher does not take part in the activities beings observed.

Observer Participant
 - The researcher's role is known to others in the group
 - researchers participate in activities, but the engagement may be fairly superficial as the researchers role is to observe the real participants.

Participant as Observer
 - the researcher's role is known to everyone in the group
 - the researcher would engage fully in all the activities and experience them totally themselves.

Data Collection as a Participant Observer

This can be in the form of:

Primary Observations: the researcher notes what actually happened
Secondary Observations: interpretative statements by observers of what happened
Experiential Data: a record of the researcher's feelings/values and how these changed over time


Questionnaires facilitate the collection of data by asking all, or a sample of people, to respond to the same questions.

Five types of questionnaire approaches:

  • On-line
  • Postal
  • Delivery and collection
  • Telephone
  • Interview

You need to be clear before you design your questionnaire what is what you want to learn and what data you need to obtain.

Consider validity (the extent which the data accurately measures what they were intended to measure) and reliability (the extent to which the data collection method will yeild the consisted findings if replicated by others) when designing your questionnaire.

Questions can be open (space is left for the respondent to answer) or closed (a limited number of responses to question is provided).

The flow of the questions should be logical to the respondent.

Questionnaires should be courteously and carefully introduced to the respondents by including a cover letter.

Questionnaires should be piloted, if possible.

General Rules for Designing Questionnaires (source: Collins & Hussey, 2003)

  1. Explain the purpose of the questionnaire
  2. Keep your questions simple
  3. Do not use jargon or specialist language
  4. Phrase each question so that only one meaning is possible
  5. Avoid vague, descriptive words
  6. Avoid asking negative questions 
  7. Only ask one question at a time
  8. Include relevant questions only
  9. Include questions which serve as cross-checks on the answers of other answers.
  10. Avoid leading or value-laden questions
  11. Avoid asking difficult questions
  12. Keep your questionnaire as short as possible

Size and Sampling

Probability Sampling
The researcher has a significant measure of control over who is selcted and on the selection method.

Main Methods

Simple Random Sampling - selection at random from a choice of subjects

Systematic Sampling - selecting at numbered intervals

Stratified Sampling - sampling within particular sections of the target groups

Cluster Sampling - surveying a particular cluster in the subject group

Non-Probability Sampling
The researcher has little or initial control over the choice of who is presented for selection or where controlled selection of participants is not a critical factor.

Main Methods:

Convenience Sampling - choosing those immediately available

Voluntary Sampling - the sample is self-selecting

Purposive Sampling - researchers use their judgment to choose people

Snowball Sampling - building up a sample through informants

Even Sampling - using the opportunity presented by a particular event

Time Sampling - recognizing that different times or days of the week or year may be significant and sampling at these times or days.

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