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Focusing and Bounding the Collection of Data

CHAPTER 2: THE SUBSTANTIVE START

This reading helped me to gain an overview of useful research techniques.

First, the reading established the fact that qualitative research designs exist. A lot of what is described in the text shows categories and elements to include when one is “doing research” (to use it generically). I like how it breaks down the process of research into an organized system or format. For example, some basic elements are:

  • decide and focus on the study’s issues
  • decide on the cases to be studied
  • decide which data should be collected (what kind of data do I need?)
  • decide how the data will be managed and analyzed

One interesting issue that is discussed is whether or not a researcher should focus data or practice “indiscriminate data collection” (page 17) which could lead to data overload. Basically, the simple answer was YES–a researcher should structure his or her research with some orienting ideas. However, indiscriminate data collecting is useful when the research is “highly inductive…when experienced researchers have plenty of time and are exploring exotic cultures, understudied phenomena, or very complex social phenomena” (page 17).

One helpful (and cute) analogy presented in the reading answers the question of how prestructured a research design should be. The answer is “enough to reach the ground” (page 17), which is actually a remark made by Abraham Lincoln when he was asked about what the proper length a man’s legs should be. It is funny, but also true…research should be “enough to reach the ground” so that we can establish a conceptual framework or base that is a good, strong, and solid foundation.

The reading continues by focusing on the topic of how to build a conceptual framework. Here is a simple guideline:

  • RATIONALE: theory building; deciding which theories are important and most meaningful; what information should be collected and analyzed.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION: either graphic or narrative format–explains the main things to be studied; basically it should answer the question “What is this research project about?”
  • ILLUSTRATIONS: along with appropriate graphs and charts that support the data collected, it is essential to begin with a flowchart of your research project–think of it as a fancy table of content

After this structure is established, everyone’s research can go into the direction that it is intended to. Overall, this reading was very helpful and made me feel like I actually do have a little bit of structure and control over what I am researching and how I should guide it.

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