The Data and Data Collection

How do we collect qualitative data? After all the preparations previously discussed are defined thoroughly, data collection can commence. The data (sing. datum) are a set of characteristics representing the research variable. These characteristics are analyzed and interpreted in order to draw valid conclusions.

In qualitative research, data gathering strategies involve large amounts of information from a small, purposive sample using strategies such as focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, and subject observations. There are two general classifications of data according to its source.

  1. Primary data refer to data sets that include first-hand information and experiences about an event. Usually collected from primary sources, primary data are also those gathered for a particular research problem collected using the best procedure possible for the said problem. Examples of primary data are those collected by university-based researchers that are stored in data archives intended for future use and dissemination of the general research community.
  2. Secondary data are mostly data consisting of studied objects, that are coded according to their characteristics. They are also composed of transcripts of audio and video recordings and data that stem from previous research studies. The advantage of collecting these data over the primary ones is that it is more economical and more accessible.

Developing a research instrument to gather data from respondents is a critical task for a researcher. A good research instrument may elicit an organized data that would help him/her in finding answers to the research problems.

The following are pointers in developing or selecting good data collection instruments.

  1. A good data collection instrument should be brief but effective. It should be short enough to be completed by the respondents but should elicit information-rich data that the researcher needs.
  2. The data collection instrument must be able to gather information other than what is available. Otherwise, there is no need for developing the instrument since the data that the researcher needs can be found somewhere else.
  3. The arrangement of questions in the instrument must be sequenced in increasing difficulty. Easy questions must be placed first than the harder ones. Less sensitive questions must be placed first than the more complex or controversial ones.
  4. Research instruments must be validated and evaluated for its reliability. A valid and reliable instrument provides valid and reliable data.
  5. The data to be collected from the instrument should easily be tabulated, analyzed, and interpreted. The instrument should serve as a tool for the researcher to help him/her in the study.

Below are common data collection instruments in qualitative research.

This instrument may require the researcher to examine available resources or documents. Inspecting the primary and secondary sources is important when using this type of data collection.

Interviews happen when the researcher personally asks the key informants about things or information he/she needs from the subjects. The interviewer must be trained to conduct an effective interview. There are different types of interview:

  • Structured interview happens when the researcher prepared and organized questions that the respondents will answer. The researcher does not ask beyond what is written in the interview sheet but could ask the interviewee for the purpose of clarifying his/ her answers.
  • Unstructured interview occurs when the researcher prepares an outline of the topics that he/she needs to personally ask from the interviewee in spontaneous and conversation-like manner. In this kind of interview, the researcher should be knowledgeable about the topic and skilled in asking probing questions.
  • Semi-structured interview is when the researcher prepares a specific set of questions but could ask follow-up questions to the respondents for them to elaborate their answers. It is easy for the researcher to gather additional information and to have an in-depth perspective on the responses of the interviewee when this type of interview is used.

In this technique, the researcher tracks the subjects’ behavioral change over a specific period of time. Observations may happen in the following manner:

  • Naturalistic observation. In this type of observation, the researcher observes the subjects in the natural setting or in their actual environment. The observation is done from outside of the environment.
  • Participative observation. The observer in this type of observation requires the researcher to be involved in the usual activities of the subjects. This gives the researcher direct and first-hand experience of what the respondents are experiencing.
  • Non-naturalistic observation. This is also called the “ideal-situation” observation. Subjects are taken away from their actual environment and are subjected to ideal conditions determined by the researcher.

This is one of the most commonly used data collection instruments. Questionnaires are easier to administer and could gather larger turnout on a single time. It requires respondents to answer a prepared set of questions regarding the information that the researcher wants to elicit from them. The following are some types of questions used:

  • Yes or No. Items in the questionnaire are answerable by yes or no. (e.g., Do you have a car? _Yes _No)
  • Recognition. Respondents are made to choose from the choices given in the questionnaire.
  • Completion. Respondents are requested to supply the necessary information in the blanks placed after each statement or question. This is also called open-ended questionnaire.
  • Coding. The respondents are asked to rank or give numerical rating for the information required of them.
  • Subjective. The respondents are free to give their opinions and answers to the questions posed by the researcher.
  • Combination. This makes use of one or more type of questions in a single questionnaire.

It is a good way to gather people from similar backgrounds or experiences together to discuss a specific topic of interest. They are guided by a moderator (or group facilitator) who introduces the topics for discussion and motivates the group to participate actively.

The strength of FGD relies on allowing the participants to agree or disagree with each other. In this case, it provides an insight of how the group thinks about issues, inconsistencies, and variations that exist in a their community.

FGDs can be used to explore the meanings of survey findings that cannot be explained statistically, determine the range of opinions and views about a topic of interest, and collect a wide variety of local terms. In bridging research and policy, FGD can be useful in providing an insight about opinions among parties involved in the change process, thus enabling the process to be managed more smoothly. It is also a good method to employ prior to designing questionnaires.

  1. A research design is the process of structuring techniques and strategies that help researchers solve their problems or answer their inquiry.
  2. The approaches to qualitative inquiry are ethnography, grounded theory, case study, phenomenology, and historical.
  3. Sampling is the process of choosing samples from a population.
  4. The common sampling methods applied in qualitative research are extreme or deviant case sampling, intensity sampling, maximum variat
    ion sampling, homogenous sampling, typical case sampling, critical case sampling, snowball or chain sampling, criterion sampling, operational construct or theoretical sampling, confirming or disconfirming sampling, stratified purposeful sampling, opportunistic or emergent sampling, purposeful random sampling, convenience sampling, and combination or mixed purposeful sampling.
  5. Data is the term used to describe the set of characteristics represented by the research variable.
  6. The common data collection instruments in qualitative research are documentary analysis, interview, observation, questionnaire, and focus group discussion.