Start by collecting high quality data

No matter how good NVivo is at helping you get analysis done efficiently, good results still depend on starting with quality data. Here I share two resources that can help you prepare to gather high quality qualitative data for your project. The resources are especially helpful for those new to qualitative research, but as I reviewed them, I found a few good reminders and even new ideas to try myself.

Qualitative data includes a wide range of data formats – from responses to open-ended survey questions to photos and visual images to webpages, blog posts or Facebook and Twitter posts. Although you can use NVivo with any and all of these data formats, most people I work with use the more traditional qualitative data collection methods of interviews or focus groups, generating transcripts from their recordings. If that describes your project, the resources below identify factors that can increase your chances of producing high quality data from the get-go.

First up is a short and practical primer on qualitative research interviewing by DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree.1 The authors remind us that quality includes the way we gather the information (e.g., the questions we ask and how we ask them). Recruiting participants ethically, setting a comfortable context for the interview, and asking good questions that align with your purpose may seem like obvious considerations, but I find they are often overlooked. Other important decisions that need to be made in advance of data collection are how you will record the information, and how to prepare it for data analysis. Reading this article is like listening in on the sage words of advice well-experienced qualitative researchers share with brand-new students.

Although the DiCicco-Bloom & Crabtree article continues to be one of my favourite resources, and the principles remain sound, it was written long before online data collection options such as Zoom were common. Given the recent rapid expansion of these technologies, I thought I’d refresh my own knowledge. What do qualitative researchers need to consider to produce high quality data collected online?

In an informative free webinar presented by NVivo and Sage Publications,2 Janet Salmons, PhD, takes us through essential considerations for collecting qualitative data online using technology like video calls, visual models and whiteboards. The eight options she shares as examples sparked my interest in exploring new techniques for data collection (e.g., screen sharing images to gather feedback). Dr. Salmons prompts us to attend to the nuances of online data collection – such as considering the participant’s context. Do we need the participant to be in a private location for the interview? Do we want them to share their background view as part of data collection? This webinar reminded me that we often make assumptions about online participation. If we want to collect high quality data, it’s essential that we plan for our online meeting and then communicate to participants how best to prepare.

NVivo is an excellent tool for qualitative data analysis, but getting good results hinges on starting with high quality data. If you are embarking on a new qualitative data project, spend an hour or two reviewing the recommendations of these well-seasoned researchers. Doing so is bound to save you hours of time and increase the likelihood that you will produce high quality interview or focus group data for your project and benefit your analysis work in NVivo.

References

  1. DiCicco‐Bloom, B., & Crabtree, B.F. (2006). The qualitative research interview. Medical Education, 40(4):314-21. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2929.2006.02418.x
  2. Lumivero. Connecting for Collecting Data: Qualitative Research Online with Human Participants. https://info.lumivero.com/qualitative-research-online

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