Data in qualitative research is collected through fieldwork. Fieldwork includes conducting observations, interviews, focus groups, etc. and is the process of a researcher collecting data within the natural environment of the topic or phenomenon under study. Qualitative researchers use methods that generate verbal, rather than numerical data, during their fieldwork. Qualitative data generation methods are aimed at collecting data regarding participant behavior, understandings, perceptions, or experiences of and within the phenomenon of interest.


  • Entering the Field

    Fieldwork is the phase in research where researchers collect or generate data in a natural environment (as opposed to a laboratory). When entering the field, qualitative researchers must consider site identification, how to gain access, their level of participation, how they will interact with participants, and ethical conduct during their fieldwork. This presentation introduces what qualitative fieldwork is and major considerations of qualitative researchers when preparing for fieldwork and while in the field.

    Entering the Field PPT (PDF)

  • Interviews

    Qualitative interviews are a very common form of qualitative data collection in educational research. Researchers can even conduct studies where interviews are the sole data for the project (following a basic/descriptive qualitative research design). In this presentation, I will discuss the types of qualitative interviews (based on Roulston's 6 interviewing types found in Reflective Interviewing), best practices for conducting qualitative interviews, and what the general interview process is that leads to analysis of transcription data.

    Qualitative Interviewing Reading List (PDF)

  • Observations

    Observations have a long history in social science research. They're a great way to generate data that is based on behavior and human interaction, rather than reported experiences from a participant regarding the phenomenon of interest in a research study. In educational research, they can be invaluable in understanding the context, environment, and interactions within any research study. After providing a brief look at the history of observations and ethnographic research, I introduce observations as a method, discuss participant and non-participant observation, and provide an overview of the various roles researchers can have when conducting observations.

    Qualitative Observations Reading List (PDF)

  • Focus Groups
  • Fieldnotes

    Fieldnotes are a form of data in qualitative research that has a versatility across a variety of data generation methods. They hold the purpose of description, reflection, and analysis. Fieldnotes can be based on fieldwork, reflection of fieldwork, or can be an overall assessment or generalization of the trajectory of the project and emerging analysis. Most commonly, fieldnotes are equated with observations and are a time for researchers to record a detailed account of what they witnessed while conducting an observation. This screencast will provide an introduction to what fieldnotes are, when to take them, and the content they commonly include.

    Fieldnotes PPT (PDF)