Chapter 7: Data Collection

In this chapter Creswell focuses on data collection and begins by describing the process of data collection as a “circle” of interrelated activities that include, but go beyond collecting data (depicted on pg. 146). He explains each of these activities, explores how they differ for each of the five approaches to inquiry, and on pages 148-149, provides a data collection table. The phases of the data collection process include locating site/individual, gaining access and making rapport, purposefully sampling, collecting data, recording info, resolving field issues, and storing data.

Individuals can be selected by chance, emerge from a wider study, or be volunteers. Creswell explains the individual selection process for five different approaches along with examples (Fig. 7.1 pg. 120; 2nd Edition). Researchers interested in studying their own organizations, places of work, or themselves, may pose issues concerning power and risk to the participants and the site. Accessing sites and individuals requires permission from the Institutional Review Board by submitting a proposal. The author provides a sample consent form in Fig. 7.2 (pg.152) and the procedures to follow for accessing sites and building rapport (pg.154).

Creswell describes purposeful sampling, one of the most common sampling strategies, as a technique for group participants according to pre-selected criteria relevant to a particular research question. Considerations include who/what should be sampled; what form the sampling will take; how many people/sites need to be sampled; is the sampling consistent with the information needed by one of the five approaches to inquiry. Several qualitative sampling strategies are listed in Table 7.2 (p.158). The most popular approach is maximum variation, which consists of determining in advance the criteria that differentiate sites/participants and then selecting sites/participants that are different on those criteria. The author’s recommendation on the sampling size is on pg. 157.

Observations, interviews, documents and using audiovisual materials are the popular data collection approaches and Fig. 7.3 (pg.160) lists these in detail. When conducting an interview, the author recommends identifying interviewees based one of the sampling procedures listed in Fig. 7.2 (pg. 158). Different types of interviews include telephone, focus group, and one-on-one. The elements of an interview are listed on pages 163-166 and a sample interview protocol is listed on Fig. 7.4 (pg. 165). Observation addresses issues such as the potential deception of people being interviewed, impression management, and the potential marginality of the researcher in a strange setting. Things to consider while observing are listed on pages 167-168. The author provides instructions for recording interviews on page 168 and example instructions for observing on Table 7.5 (pg. 169).  Observation can include a ‘descriptive section,’ which details the chronology of events that have occurred and a ‘reflective’ section for notes about the process. It is important to record the information by ‘logging’ or ‘jotting down’ the data.

Creswell discusses some of the field issues that researchers may encounter in the data collection process. The issues he mentions pertain to gaining access to the organization, observation, interviews, documents and audiovisual materials, and ethical issues. In order to gain access to an organization, the  author recommends that the site selected should be one in which the researcher does not have a vested interest (i.e. their own place of employment) since their closeness to the organization may affect their ability to code and clearly look at all aspects of the research experience. Issues that arise in observations and interviews can be related to the mechanics of conducting these activities. In terms of observation and interviewing, Cromwell recommends researchers take notes and record information accurately. Interviews can be taxing for new researchers and there should be collaboration in the way the interview is conducted so that both the interviewer and interviewee are sharing information equally. Documents and audiovisual materials (e.g. journals or video recordings) assigned to research subjects as part of the data collection process may result in the researcher having to decipher written materials that is difficult to read. Researchers are faced with ethical challenges in the data collection process (consent, coercion, confidentiality, deception, or the sharing of the researcher’s own personal experiences).

In terms of storing data, Creswell provides a listing on page 175 that details 5 important principles on how to store and handle a variety of data used in qualitative research projects.

The author concludes the chapter with a comparison of the five approaches (pg. 176) and how the approaches differ in their diversity depending upon what is being researched and the type of data that is being collected for the research project.

14 thoughts on “Chapter 7: Data Collection

  1. Hui

    I am thinking about holding an online chat group for my interview. If I use video chat what things do you think I should notice?

  2. Suzanne Epstein

    Hui: Can you be more precise as to what type of questions or issue you are interested in studying? This will help to set up some of the things you should be looking for or paying attention to during and after the video chat. Also remember to make a transcript of the chat.

    Professor: So I think I just reply you here. I want to know how the Taiwan Issue impact the business relationship between the Mainland China and the Taiwan businessmen. I would like to use Narrative research. I have four interviewee and I think group chat is more interesting than one to one interview. My interviewee have been doing business with each other for a couple years. I do have some ideas for my chat and research questions now but not detailed. And I REALLY need some tips on recording skills! Thank you.

  3. Lauren Wolman

    It’s great to be able to put an official term to the type of data collection I’ll be doing- “purposeful sampling” since I will specifically be seeking out individuals who work in a certain field and in certain positions. I also began to think about how I want to collect my data- in person interviews, phone interviews, a focus group, etc.

    I will definitely be doing some research into what the pros and cons of the different interview types are before deciding which I want to use for my study.

  4. Brandyce Pechillo

    I wasn’t sure if my research was more tailored to an ethnographic or phenomenology study, and after reviewing this review and referencing some pages from the text (specifically pg. 176), I think I am leaning more towards the less intrusive approach – phenomenology.

    I think the one-on-one interviews might be best for collecting the data I need, along with other data collection methods. I think what also draws me to this style of data collection is that a phenomenological study will hone in on a single concept/idea in a narrow setting.

  5. Eric

    One of the factors important in my decision as to which research topic and question I focus on is whether I think I will be able gather multiple forms of data. Is this a valid concern? Or does having a large sample in one specific type of data collection suffice?

  6. Dhanya Hemanth Raj

    @brandyce: One on one setting is great idea. You will be able to observe informal communication of the person you are interviewing. Also note that for one on one interview prior planning and a proper setting is required or the other person may feel hesitant or shy.

  7. Dhanya Hemanth Raj

    Hui: A chat group is a great idea when the interviewers know each other and are comfortable to talk to one another in groups. Also you must note that some may dominate the conversation over others. Some people may never speak up or just go along with the general opinion or the opinion of the dominating person.

    Thank you, Dhanya! You are very helpful.

  8. Marissa Levitan

    This chapter is very useful as I plan to conduct interviews for my study. Since I would like to examine employees’ interaction with their employer’s or vice versa, it is very important to note that I should not be interviewing employees at my own company. How to find a good sample, set up interviews, and record the data are all things I will need to consider.

  9. Manuel

    Following Mr. Creswell I’m tempted to use the Postpositivist framework and methodology in terms of data collection. I am looking forward to enhancing the first of the Barcelona Principles of Measurement: Importance of Goal Setting and Measurement. The elements informing “goal setting” are particularly interesting to me. They require both personal assessments about the current and former narratives as well as well as the perceived weight of the different elements forming them.
    I must gather tips and examples of how successfully combine Likert tests with personal interviews.

  10. Tricia Chambers

    Like others in the class I am considering my workplace for the mini-study and this chapter raises some concerns. I think (perhaps wrongly) that the issue is one that can be successfully overcome provided that bracketing and other techniques for curbing bias Creswell outlines elsewhere in the book are used. Also, given the short time frame the workplace feel like the bird in hand!

    This review of the chapter did a good job in alerting me to to issues that I should keep in mind as I proceed. As my study will immerse me in the topic of compliance, I expect to interview individuals very savvy on ethical issues as well as those concerned with anonymity. As such the chapter is of particular importance to me.

  11. Sheena Grant

    Like others in the class this chapter does intrigue me on Creswell’s view about looking inside an organization.

    I will take into consideration these factors when interviewing people within my organization and even those in similar environments.

  12. Manuel

    All right. I was concerned about the possible contradictions between the tests and the interviews, but this way I don’t have to worry about it.

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