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Unformatted text preview: 97 4 Data Collection Methods Q ualitative researchers typically rely on four methods for gathering information: (a) participating in the setting, (b) observing directly, (c) interviewing in depth, and (d) analyzing documents and material cul- ture. These form the core of their inquiry—the staples of the diet. Several secondary and specialized methods of data collection supplement them. This chapter provides a brief discussion of the primary and the secondary methods to be considered in designing a qualitative study. This discussion does not replace the many excellent, detailed references on data collection (we refer to several at the end of this chapter). Its pur- pose is to guide the proposal writer in stipulating the methods of choice for his study and in describing for the reader how the data will inform his research questions. How the researcher plans to use these methods, however, depends on several considerations. Chapter 1 presents an introductory discussion of qualitative method- ological assumptions. As the grounding for a selection of methods, we extend that discussion here, using Brantlinger’s (1997) useful summary of seven categories of crucial assumptions for qualitative inquiry. The first concerns the researcher’s views of the nature of the research: Is the inquiry technical and neutral, intending to conform to traditional research within her discipline, or is it controversial and critical, with an ❖ ❖ ❖ 04-Marshall-4864.qxd 2/1/2006 3:16 PM Page 97 explicit political agenda? Second, How does she construe her location, her positioning relative to the participants: Does she view herself as dis- tant and objective or intimately involved in their lives? Third, what is the “direction of her ‘gaze’” : Is it outward, toward others—externalizing the research problem—or does it include explicit inner contemplation? Fourth, what is the purpose of the research: Does she assume that the pri- mary purpose of the study is professional and essentially private (e.g., promoting her career), or is it intended to be useful and informative to the participants or the site? Related to the fourth category is the fifth: Who is the intended audience of the study —the scholarly community or the participants themselves? Sixth, what is the researcher’s political positioning: Does she view the research as neutral or does she claim a politically explicit agenda? Finally, the seventh assumption has to do with how she views the exercise of agency: Does she see herself and the participants as essentially passive or as “engaged in local praxis”? (Brantlinger, p. 4). Assumptions made in these seven categories shape how the specific research methods are conceived and implemented throughout a study. Explicit discussion of assumptions strengthens the overall logic and integrity of the proposal....
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