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Chapter 16

Qualitative Methods of Data Collection


Learn Interviewing Skills or Practice Transcription

This website contains archives of interviews conducted by Terry Gross at NPR. Although there are some differences between journalistic and research interviewing, this collection across 40 years will inspire you to become an effective and insightful interviewer. You can also practice transcribing or analyzing these interviews.

Interview Outlines

With the permission of the authors, here's the interview outline (Note: the link opens as a Word document) for the data collected and reported the following studies: 

  • Garner, J. T. (2015). Open doors and iron cages: Management responses to employee dissent. International Journal of Business Communication, 53(1), 27-54.

  • Garner, J. T., & Barnes, J. (2013). Connecting classrooms and community: Engaged scholarship, nonacademic voices, and organizational communication curriculum. Communication Education, 62(2), 105-126.


Scholarly Focus Group Examples

With the permission of the author, here's the focus group outline (Note: the link opens as a Word document) for the data collected and reported the following study:  

  • Garner, J. T. (2016). Sunday democracies: A mixed-methods analysis of members’ perceptions of church authority and organizational dissent. Journal of Applied Communication Research, 44(4), 415-433.


And for another focus group study, and with the permission of the authors, here's the focus group outline (Note: the link opens as a Word document) for the data collected and reported in the following study:

  • Myers, S. A., Goldman, Z. W., Ball, H., Carton, S. T., Atkinson, J., Tindage, M. F., & Anderson, A. O. (2015). Assessing college student use of anti-citizenship classroom behavior: Types, reasons, and association with learning outcomes. Communication Teacher, 29(4), 234-251.


A third example of a focus group outline (Note: the link opens as a Word document), used with the permission of the authors, was used in the data collection and reporting for:

  • Braithwate, D. O., Toller, P. W., Daas, K. L., Durham, W. T., & Jones, A. C. (2008). Centered but not caught in the middle: Stepchildren's perceptions of dialectical contradiction in the communication of co-parents. Journal of Applied Communication, 36(1), 33-55.

Typically, group communication scholars audio record focus groups, but they can be videorecorded with appropriate procedures approved by your university's IRB (e.g., participants are identified--e.g., female  blonde hair in red top; male Black hair with ball cap; by numbers). To see how one set of researchers used video for focus groups, see:

  • Clayman, M., Webb, J., Zick, A., Cameron, K., rintamaki, L., & Makoul, G. (2009). Video review: An alernative to coding transcripts of focus groups. Communication Methods & Measures, 3(4), 16-22.

Industry Focus Group Examples

  • Here is a focus group outline from NC State University's Office of Institutional Strategy and Analysis to help inform university planning decisions. 

  • Check out this short video of what to avoid when moderating a focus group (Note: that the moderator is using a lot of leading and closed-ended questions).


Learn from an Ethnography Expert

Paul Leonardi provides wonderful how-to advice in his chapter from Digital Research Confidential: The Secrets of Studying Behavior. For example, he provides practical advice for doing ethnography. For example, he encourages ethnographers to:


  • Reduce the anxiety of those you are interacting with by doing a good job with your first observation. That is:

    • Make them feel comfortable around you.

    • Do not ask too many questions that distract people from what they are doing.

    • Listen.

    • Allow the first few observations you do to generate goodwill and get buy-in from informants; these observations may not generate great data, but the buy-in you develop will rapport with others.


Source: Leonardi, P. M. (2015). The ethnographic study of visual culture in the age of digitization.  In E. Hargittai & C. Sandvig (Eds.), Digital research confidential: The secrets of studying behavior online (pp 103-137)MIT Press.


Want to Learn More about Ethnography?

  • Professor Michael Genzuk, University of Southern California, offers an overview of ethnography in this document.

Qualitative Data Saturation

  • This website has a great visualization of data saturation.

More on Qualitative Methods

I highly recommend Sarah J. Tracy's book Qualitative Research Methods: Collecting Evidence, Crafting Analysis, Communicating Impact



Updated June 6, 2022

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