Data Collection Methods

Choosing the Right Data Collection Method

Semi-Structured Interviews

In-depth interviews with patients, clinicians, and other stakeholders are the foundation of all significant, valid, and reliable qualitative health research. Standardized, structured questions allow for valid comparison across respondents, while open-ended, unstructured prompts allow respondents to raise the topics of interest to them that researchers might not have thought to ask.  The privacy of the one-on-one encounter, whether in person, on the phone, or via videoconference encourages candor and allows for frank reflection on sensitive issues.  Semi-structured interviews are best used in exploratory studies, where little is known about a phenomenon, and when the individual’s experience of an issue is primary. See projects using semi-structured interviews.

Structured Interviews

Structured interviews resemble surveys in that they allow for valid comparison across a larger number of respondents, while still giving room for reflection and elaboration. These are effectively utilized in large qualitative studies (forty or more respondents), or when the research involves an established area of inquiry, where there is less concern about missing important domains of inquiry. See projects using structured interviews.

Focus Groups

Focus groups provide insight into how decision-making works and into group processes: How do professionals asses the pros and cons of a new technology? How do prospective study participants feel about clinical trial participation? Good focus groups involve an exchange of ideas and preferences among participants, allowing researchers to understand the range of views around a phenomenon.  Focus groups can be convened in person or via videoconference, and each group should include approximately ten individuals with similar life experience to allow for a comfortable exchange of views. See products using focus groups.

Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder engagement is an increasingly essential facet of health research. By bringing together those affected by your study results, whether patients and family members, clinicians from multiple disciplines, representatives from payer groups and policymaking organizations, a successful stakeholder engagement can ensure your research avoids pitfalls and succeeds in disseminations and implementation. A stakeholder is anyone who will be affected by the results of your research, whether a health professional, a patient, or a policymaker. Stakeholder panels will generally convene virtually or in person for multiple sessions over the life of your project, building collective knowledge about the research aims and offering insights. See projects using stakeholder engagement. 

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