In December 2017 second-year Master students had their data collection period. Even though this active part might be very stressful and intense for some students, I enjoyed every aspect of it. I felt that I was actually DOING something. So, did I have any problems with my data collection? Yes. Did I learn anything from them? Definitely.
Networking is a key.
The first thing you should do is to find your participants. My participants are parents who maintain bilingual communication with their 10-16 years-old children. And it was quite challenging to find them. In this way, I was a little jealous of my groupmates who could go to the school principal and get access to the teachers whereas I had to activate all my communication skills to find such families in two different cities of Kazakhstan. As a result, I am able to integrate my research topic into any conversation in the world. Even now I cannot stop asking random people about their language experience.
Research = Flexibility.
We do realize that people do not have to participate in the study and if you really want them to, you should be available at any time and any place. I had some wonderful conversations in a good office or cozy kitchen, but data-rich interviews also happened in the corridor, during lunch breaks, or in “that-corner-seems-quiet” kind of places. Not because of my poor planning but rather because people are willing to help even if they are extremely busy.
So, breathe in, breathe out, and focus on your questions.
“What else would you like to share that I haven’t asked?”
I think this is one of the most powerful questions in the interview. When you complete the main part and say that you have just one question left, some people get even more excited about their experience. Nobody guarantees that the story they are about to tell is connected to your study, but from their speech, you can get a deeper understanding of their attitudes, experiences, and preferences. This final story is less systematic but really important for them to express. And it leaves your interviewees satisfied with their participation in the study. What can be better than a person with positive impressions of his/her contribution to the research community?
The way research is conducted in practice is sometimes different from what we expect. I hope this post will help next generations of Master students not to be too stressed about their study and enjoy this experience. And for those who have already finished their data collection: What did you like the most about it?
Photo credits: http://infobaby.info/razvitie/149-pochemu-rebenok-trekh-let-stal-chasto-zevat.html