Interviews can bring a directness and immediacy to your data collection not found in many other methods. However, it may also be time consuming, subjective, and difficult to analyse if carried out incorrectly. Observations: Participant observation – This is one of the most common methods for qualitative data collection, it is also one of the most demanding. It requires that the researcher becomes a participant in the culture or context being observed.
The literature on participant observation discusses how to enter the context, the role of the researcher as a participant, the collection and storage of field notes, and the analysis of field data. Participant observation often requires months or years of intensive work because the researcher needs to become accepted as a natural part of the culture in order to assure that the observations are of natural occurrence.
Direct Observation – Direct observation are totally different from participant observations in a number of ways. Firstly, a direct observer doesn’t typically try to become a participant in the context. However, the direct observer does strive to be as unnoticeable as possible as not to bias the observations. Secondly, direct observation suggests a more detached perspective. The researcher watches rather than takes part. Direct observation can also be achieved by videotape the subject or observing from behind one-way mirrors. Thirdly, direct observation tends to be more focused than participant observation. The researcher is observing certain sampled situations or people rather than trying to become involved in the entire context. Finally, direct observations may not to take as long as participant observation.
When undertaking observations, it is important to consider how the information you collect will be analysed. Also, will the information gathered really answer your research questions? Our social lives are extremely complex and careful selection of what to look at is needed in order to give the most useful and informative data. Literature: Journal articles: These are useful for current and up-to-date information although that it can take up to two years to for an article to be publish. They are often used in literature reviews because they offer a concise, format for research, in addition all reputable journals are refereed (i.e. editors publish only the most relevant and reliable research).
Books: Books on research have a tendency of going out of date quickly, plus it takes longer for a book to be published than for a journal article. Text books can be limiting as they are intended for teaching, not for research, however they do offer a good starting point from which to find more detailed sources. Conference proceedings: A less used resource amongst the others but can be useful in providing the latest research, or research to be published. It is also helpful in providing information on where people are currently involved in which research areas, and so can be helpful in tracking down other work by the same researchers.
Government/corporate reports: Most government departments and corporations carry out research regularly. Their findings can provide a useful source of information, depending on the subject and most likely be current or have similar studies done previously. Newspapers: As newspapers are normally intended for the general public, the information may be limited in its use for literature research.
However, newspapers are generally more helpful as providers of information about recent trends, discoveries or changes, e.g. announcing changes in government policy. Internet: This is the fastest-growing resource of information but it is almost impossible and time consuming to wade through all the information available. When using the internet, you should make sure the information is reliable, refereed, current and from a reputable source.
Case Studies: Case studies are an intensive study of a specific individual or particular context. It establishes a firm research focus or hypothesis, and forms questions around the situation or subject to be studied and this determines purpose for the study. This leads to using a variety of data gathering methods to produce evidence that leads to understanding of the case and answers the research questions. To help in formulating the questions, a literature review is conducted. This review establishes what has been previously said or carried out before. The literature review, explanation of the purpose of the case study, and identification of a specific audience for the final report guide how the study will be designed, conducted, evaluated and reported.
Survey: A “survey” can be anything from a short paper-and-pencil feedback to an intensive one-on-one in-depth interview. Surveys are more commonly used in psychological research. The basic idea behind survey methodology is measuring variables. In most instances, surveys attempt to capture attitude or patterns of past behaviour. Surveys vary widely in sample size and design. Surveys can be a cost-effective type of research. However, its weakness is that all surveys are basically exploratory. Other survey weaknesses include: Reactivity: Candidates may give sought-after responses that make them look good or what they perceive the researcher is looking for. Sampling Frame: Can be very difficult to access the proper number or type of people needed for a representative sample of a specific population.