Tools for Learning Data Gathering Paula Nottingham Updated 22/2/13Jim Dine, 1962, MoMa
Inquiry Tools Observations Surveys Interviews Focus Groups Jim Dine, 1973,MoMa
ObservationsObservations can be a rich source of information of abehavioural nature - observation grids can be devised inorder to examine the number of times that behaviouroccurs or to record specific responses or interventions. http://www.ehow.co.uk/
ObservationsThe observation method involves the researcher inwatching, recording and analysing events of interest.the events may be recorded, either at the time or later bythe researcher the observations may be structured interms of a predetermined framework or may be relativelyopen.The observer may also be a participant in the events beingstudied… this participant observation can be recorded inyour journal.
ObservationsData is often both qualitative (how and why) andquantitative (how much and when). You can prepare a‘coding framework’ or grid that ensures data is collectedwithin agreed boundaries of subjectivity-objectivity.You can practice developing your analytical skills byobserving meetings (or similar events) in theworkplace (Bell, 2005), or audiovisual documentariesof events.Interactions with interviewees are noted in the analysis –describe how you carried out the observation. This wouldinclude gaining insight into any inherent conflicts from theduality of the insider-researcher perspective.
Analysing ObservationsThe data is gathered and displayed as descriptions, quotes,diagrams to show relationships, quantitative charts/displaysto show quantitative data, audio, audio-visual, andphotographic evidence, etc.Your observations record what has happened sensitivelyand appropriately to issues of ethics, permission andconfidentiality.You need to report an understanding of the context for theevent or meeting that was observed in order to drawconclusions from the data.
Surveys news.bbc.co.ukThe main advantage of the survey approach is the ability to gatherdata from wide range of representative respondents. The nationalcensus and large-scale MORI polls are good examples of the surveyapproach at its most effective.
SurveysSurveys are usually associated with the idea of asking groups ofpeople questions about who they are or what they ‘think’. Thesubjects being investigated by the researcher can in fact be about arange of issues, events and activities.Surveys can be both quantitative (counting up the responses andgiving percentages of the responses) and qualitative (leaving spacefor participants to make comments).A survey entirely based on one questionnaire might be limited interms of the depth of inquiry that can be undertaken, but it couldmake up for this in terms of the breadth or range of results achieved.To achieve generalisable results, the researcher can survey arepresentative sample of the population of interest. Selection ofsufficient numbers of people to target in the population of interest canbe developed using a sampling frame that helps ensure that thereare sufficient numbers in categories or variables of specific interest.
SurveysThe aim is to devise precise written questions for answer by a predeterminedgroup or sample. If closed questions are used, the questionnaire can providea means of gathering data from a wide range of respondents in acomparatively short space of time.Low response rates are often problematic as they can affect the validity andreliability of your data.Questions need careful definition as does their positioning and layout in theprinted questionnaire. These questions can be factual in nature, finding outbasic information for comparison and correlation, or using attitudinal scalethat was popularised by Likert (Bell, 2005) that allow for a greater range ofresponse than yes or no answers. “Attitudes can … be ascertained by presenting a list of declarative statements and asking respondents to rate them in terms of agreement or disagreement” (Black, 1999, p.227).
Analysing the dataThe framework for data analysis of replies determined in advance.Coding your questionnaire: There are five steps involved in thecoding process (Survey Monkey can export this data):1. Develop the coding frame for both pre-coded (closed) and openquestions.2. Create a codebook and coding instructions.3. Code the questionnaires.4. Transfer the values to a computer (as in an Excel spreadsheet).5. Check and clean the data (you can make simple graphs with thedata).Interpretation involves identifying significant results, trends, patterns,similarities and differences and offering an explanation for them. Thiscan be expressed in the form of numbers or words in your findings…
Interviews(Image courtesy of beewebhead on Flickr obtained from MIT open access website)
Interview- what is it?It is a qualitative method where you collect what people say(from your sample) in order to use it as evidence. Itsadvantage is that you “can follow up on ideas, proberesponses and investigate motives and feelings” (Bell,2005, p.157). You can ask the why questions…It is an occasion to gather information ‘for the record’, witha specific agenda set out by the researcher, it is not just aconversation (Denscombe,2007).When it is processed, the evidence from the interview willprovide data for your research.
Sampling – choosing who to interviewThere are a number of different ways to design asampling frame and this will depend on your approachand access. Match your methods to your researchproblem and work-based learning project.Purposive - choosing people who can answer thequestions using defined criteria like expertise or theirbeing in certain roles within the workplace (qualitative)Representative - selection of the sample population(quantitative and mixed - i.e. the interviews might follow asurvey) more ‘scientific’ - using a version of probability ornon-probability sampling
Types of InterviewStructured - closed questions to illicit information that can be turned into data, like a social survey in person or for targeted information, uses identical questions that can be standardisedSemi-structured - broad topic questions but with some built in flexibility, usually some standardisationOpen – usually around a general topic but where you allow the participant to introduce subjects and/or narratives more freely.
Developing questions and trying them outInterview Questions - ask what you would like to know about for your project. Think this process through.Piloting the process - draft the questions and their sequence. Try this out with a willing participant who can offer you suggestions for any changes - you can also talk about this stage with your Academic Advisor. Change your interview process as needed.How does this differ from professional networking? How is it similar?
Interview PreparationsConsent Forms - the ‘researcher’ needs to ensure informed consent from the participants – more in the campus session on ethicsAccess and/or Gatekeeper Permission – you may need to write or email the Manager telling them what you are doing and receive the ok to interview peopleYou may need a letter from Middlesex University to formalise your agreement with the workplace, especially if confidentiality agreements are required.
Protocols - arranging the meetingSend an information sheet, interview questions and consent form prior to the meeting if possible. Tell the participant what they will need to do to prepare and how much time you will need. Make clear your needs…Allow time to contact people to agree to interview, for example, to work with children you might need a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check.Most people at work are busy and scheduling is required, other interviews might take place outside of work because of confidentiality or preference. You may have to do interviews over the phone or Skype.
Notes and tapingGain permission to record the audio visual – use 2 devices to ensure you get the interview - digital devices mean that you can store the information but be careful about the storage and confidentialityYou may want to take a few notes to highlight certain responses - have sheets prepared and maybe a clipboard. This may not be possible in an ‘ethnographic’ situation i.e. an evening performance venue.
Doing the interviewBe punctual and have all handouts ready (Consent form,questionnaires, etc.).Arrange the surroundings, i.e. the seating and recordingdevices, so that the participant is comfortable.It is important that the participant is supported in the processand that you also engage with them in a professional mannerBUT that you come away from the interview with theevidence that you need for your inquiry
Asking the questionsKeeping a neutral tone and ‘chairing the process’ to keep it on time, stopping if necessary or asked to stop.Taping also means the recording of your voice, so you want to keep your talking down to a minimum. Don’t ask leading questions - this is harder than it sounds - BUT try to ask clarification questions to bring out interesting points, that is why you are there.In a semi-structured or open interview or focus group - there will be extra information that you may need to sift out, but try not to cut off the flow of the speaker.
Managing data from interviews• Generally the interview data is transcribed into written findings.• Quotes should be written as they are spoken, and you can add in non-verbal responses to the text.• Generally, this data is kept in a secure place that you describe in your writing up, and is only viewed by the original researcher although in some cases academic advisors may need to check this process.• In this case, transcriptions and tapes should be kept until the end of the programme.
Analysing interviewsThe analysis of data collected from interviews can becomplex. It has been collected within a certain context or avariety of different ones and must be analysed with that inmind. Care must be taken that comments are not lifted orquoted outside the context or out of sequence.Quotes can be selected because they typify the data(common responses) or there might be some statementsthat are significant though only said once (significant).Data can also be put into categories that you choose orthose that the participants have indicated as commonpractice.
Analysing interviewsThe qualitative researcher can categorise (code) data thathas emerged into themes, and the data may include theresearchers own ideas, impressions and interpretationsthat are observed. The data is organised so thatcomparisons, contrasts and evaluations can be made withthe aim of finding the meaning of the evidence presented.Content analysis can also looks at how often words andphrases are used to explain meaning by a systematicreview of the data that could be subjected to statisticalsignificance testing, e.g. categorising the positive andnegative statements in a transcript of the interview orrelated documents (like government policy papers).
Focus GroupsYour choice of setting, public or private, depends on the situation.
Focus GroupsFocus groups are similar to group interviews but they have adifferent dynamics because of the interaction between theparticipants.“Focus groups are more likely to include members whoeither have similar characteristics or experience… or areknown to have a professional concern about and knowledgeof the issues involved.” (Bell, 2005, p. 162).
Focus GroupsFocus groups can also be hard to manage so the role of themoderator or facilitator (yourself) is an important one tomake sure to provide the ‘trigger’ topic or questions and tochannel the discussion to elicit the data needed for theresearch (Denscombe, 2007, p. 179).With focus groups you may want to have everyone identifythemselves first so that you can identify their voice - theseare more difficult to transcribe.
Focus Groups - the setting Researcher Gatekeeper Recording devicesActual seating arrangement for a recent focus group in which Paula took part.
Actions for after the interview or focus groupTranscription should be verbatim – including pauses, nonverbal responses, repetitions in order to analyse the data after the interviewIf you are transcribing yourself, leave enough time (rule of thumb is 1 hour = 8 hours of transcription) OR transcribe only the quotes you need.You can pay someone to do this but need to insure confidentiality and anonymity – i.e. use pseudonyms or name substitutes like Respondent 1, Actor 1, Actor 2 etc. or describe them by their role UNLESS you have permission to do otherwise.
TroubleshootingCancelled appointments - situations change in the workplace - so youmust plan for changes and contingencies (Plan A, Plan B).Getting people to send you documents if they do not have them to hand.Working with children and parents’ permissionWorking with people you know at workGetting the details for additional participants for the research project -non-probability snowballing or signposting…With focus groups you may want to have everyone identify themselvesfirst so that you can identify their voice - these are more difficult totranscribe.
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