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 for the data collected and reported in: Garner, J. T. (2015). Open Doors and Iron Cages: Management Responses to Employee Dissent. International Journal of Business Communication, 53, 27-54. AND Garner, J. T., & Barnes, J. (2013). Connecting classrooms and community: Engaged scholarship, nonacademic voices, and organizational communication curriculum. Communication Education, 62, 105-126.


Focus Group Questions

With the permission of the author, here's the focus group outline for the data collected and reported in:  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, 415-433.


And for another focus group study, and with the permission of the authors, here's the focus group outline for the data collected and reported in: 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, 234-251. doi:10.1080/17404622.2015.1064984


A third example of a focus group outline, 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, 33-55. doi:10.1080/00909880701799337


Learn from an Expert

Paul Leonardi provides wonderful how-to advice in this chapter. For example, he provides practical advice for doing ethnography. For example, he encourages ethnographers to:


  • Reduce 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)

Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Want to Learn More about Ethnography?

  • Professor Michael Genzuk, University of Southern California, has a website that provides a short overview of ethnography.

Qualitative Data Saturation

  • This website has a great visualization of data saturation.



updated August 12, 2019