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Arch Hellen Med, 35(2), March-April 2018, 268-277


Methods of data collection in qualitative research

P. Galanis
Department of Nursing, Center for Health Services Management and Evaluation, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Athens, Greece

Researchers in the health sciences use qualitative methodology to investigate, understand and interpret in depth, human beliefs, attitudes, views, feelings, experiences, values, opinions, thoughts and knowledge. The most popular methods of data collection in qualitative research are the interview, focus groups and observation. Interviews are conducted individually, which means that, in each interview, only the interviewer and the interviewee participate. Interviews are appropriate for studies that focus on sensitive issues in the case of which the interviewees may not want to express their feelings or opinions in front of others. Interviews can be categorized as structured, semi-structured and non-structured, with the semi-structured being the most popular approach in qualitative research. Semistructured interviews include a range of important questions ("key-questions") that help the researchers to identify and introduce the most important research domains. This approach gives the opportunity for the researchers and the interviewees to expand their discussion and explore in depth a specific research question. In the focus groups approach, a group of participants discusses a specific research question under the monitoring and guidance of a moderator or facilitator. The ideal number of participants in a focus group is considered to be 6–8, while the minimum number is 3 and the maximum 14. Concerning observation, the researchers usually observe the participants and their interactions in natural settings, e.g., the work environment, clinical settings, public places, etc. Observations are divided into direct observations, in which the researchers just observes the participants but does not participate, and participant observations, in which the researcher observes the participants, but also interacts with them in natural settings. Direct and participant observations are further divided into covert observations, in which the participants do not know that are under observation and overt observation, in which they know that are being observed.

Key words: Data collection, Focus group, Interview, Methodology, Observation, Qualitative research.

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