Qualitative data collection in the time of coronavirus…

Updated February 2022

I had plenty of time in 2020, and indeed much of 2021, to muse on conducting qualitative research (and particularly Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, IPA) in the time of coronavirus. This brief article outlines some of those preliminary thoughts which I expand upon in other articles that you can find here  

This was partly stimulated by preparing my IPA workshops, as I had to think about remote data collection methods while social distancing measures were in place and potentially could persist to some level for some time. Especially given that qualitative data collection tends to be heavily reliant on face-to-face interactions.

Moving interviews and focus groups online (or to the phone) comes with a full set of ethical, practical, methodological, and technological challenges

Using video conferencing platforms and other virtual methods is likely to require careful consideration of ethical issues around privacy, anonymity, data security, and storage, plus managing how you gather and record participants’ informed consent.

Not to mention, of course, a duty of care to our participants and their wellbeing as they may be experiencing considerable levels of additional stress. It is incumbent upon us to be sensitive to the pressures that they may be under and perhaps even consider delaying data collection in such uncertain times.

What academic bloggers have to say about qualitative data collection during social distancing

Of course, a rummage online revealed a healthy and active discussion around this aspect of the current climate in relation to qualitative data collection and handling.

There is a wealth of excellent blogs that cover this issue and my humble recommendations, if you are interested, include Adam Jowett’s useful piece on the LSE blog, this from Daniel Turner on the Quirkos Blog, this from Marianne Brittijn, and this from Dr Amir Qamar at the University of Birmingham.

The potential positives that could come from this situation

On a more positive note, some qual research bloggers have drawn attention to the opportunities these recent weird times may present in terms of shaking up traditional methodological practices and driving innovation in qualitative data collection. Let’s hope there is a methodological silver lining to the corona-cloud…

Until next time!

I wish you well on your research journey, Elena

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