Module outcomes

  • Choose the appropriate data collection method based on the research question you want to answer
  • Choose the appropriate data collection method taking into account time, resources, expertise and availability of data
  • Identify key characteristics of a well-constructed survey
  • Recognise major interviewing pitfalls
  • Justify the complexity of statistical analysis employed
  • Undertake coding processes to analyse qualitative data

Many volumes have been written about social research methods and it would be useful for you to explore some of these independently. One extensive resource is Social Research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches which you may choose to use as a resource and revisit from time to time.

In this module we will give you some summary information to get you started

Data to answer your research question/s can come in a variety of forms and from a range of sources. What you choose to collect will depend on a number of issues that you will have begun to explore in the previous module including availability of data, as well as time and resources available to collect the data. If, for instance, you have a large sample population you may choose to use a survey questionnaire in order to collect as much data as possible. The data you collect using this method is likely to be a combination of quantitative and qualitative data (but mostly quantitative). For convenience you may choose to make it an online survey. However if there are only a few individuals that hold the information you need to help answer your research question/s you may choose to interview them either individually or in a focus group interview. This type of data will be predominantly qualitative in nature.

The data you collect will determine the analysis you perform (see section 3.4 – Data analysis), so you will need to carefully consider the method used (see section 3.3 – SoTL Research Methods).

This chart provides a quick comparison of the difference between qualitative and quantitative data.

qualitative-vs-quantitative table


What type of data you collect will depend on your research question/s and considerations of feasibility. As a general rule of thumb once you have devised your data collection questions, it is less time consuming to collect and analyse quantitative than qualitative data. However, quantitative data on its own may not be sufficient to answer your research question - so you should carefully consider the whether collection of qualitative data is needed to better understand the phenomenon you are researching.


 Create your next Blog entry. Give it a title, for example, The Literature Review, to share:

  1. How you have searched for and selected literature for your research project
  2. Your key sources of literature
  3. The analysis methodology you used to critique the literature

Watch the video: Quantitative vs. Qualitative Data


If at the end of the video you are still unsure about any of the aspects of qualitative vs quantitative data explore other Youtube resources to help answer your queries.

Sources of data
Once you have finalised your research questions you will need to consider from where you can collect data to answer those questions. The sources you will use are likely to be either people, documents or both. Data that does already exist and that is collected by you is primary data (e.g. data collected by you through a survey). Data that you draw on that already exists, is secondary data (e.g. that from existing reports or records). 


The website above introduced the concepts of Validity and Triangulation. How could these concepts be applied to your research? Make some notes about how you will address them (or not) in your project.


Using the context of “Little Red Riding Hood”, imagine you are exploring the phenomenon of young girls being eaten by wolves while undertaking humanitarian work in the woods. In the template below you can see how the potential sources of data for this project have been listed. Use this template to do the same for your project.


You should have thought about the method you are going to use before you designed your data collection questions. The form the questions take will ultimately depend on the method of collection you will be using. You will also have thought about it when proposing and applying for research ethics approval (see section 2.5 and 2.6). This section will give you some more information about the possible methods you can use.

Watch the video: Data collection methods

As an overview of what we have covered so far and before we move onto this section in detail, view this brief video on data collection methods. This leads to a subsequent video on qualitative vs. quantitative data collection.


Watch the video: Qualitative vs. Quantitative


Read: In the Data Collection Methods video the terms “Methodology” and “Methods” were used. Read this article, Research dilemmas: Paradigms, methods and methodology, to distinguish between the two.

Activity: Having watched the videos and read the article above, make some notes on the following questions:

  1. What questions does the video and/or article raise about methodology and methods?
  2. What is the difference between the two?
  3. What are your thoughts about the methodology you might employ in your research project?

Designing your data collection questions

In module 2 (and again in the previous activity) you were introduced to the central research question, which can be seen as the big or overarching question you are trying to answer in your research, and the research sub-questions, which breaks the central research question into related dimensions or sub-questions. To actually start collecting the data needed to answer your research questions, you need to design your data collection questions. The data collection questions further unpack the sub-questions. Data collection questions are the questions you would include in a survey, questionnaire or interview. The relationship between these three types of questions in the context of the phenomenon and problem are shown in the diagram below.



All data collection questions should relate to one or more of your sub-questions and all sub-questions should be covered by an appropriate range and number of data collections. If the questions cannot be mapped in this way then you should consider whether all of your data collection questions are necessary.

In the template below you will find examples of how to map out your research questions.

Activity: Using the template (DOCX, 13.36 KB), map your research questions from central research question to sub-questions to data collection questions.

The methods that you use in your SoTL research will depend on a number of variables including:

  • The questions you want answered
  • Access to the information or participants
  • Feasibility in terms of resources available to conduct the research

Methods you may use might include:

  • Document analysis (eg. For instance, existing records, statistics, reports, student work)
  • Observation of participant activities
  • Surveys (these can be hard copy or online)
  • Interviews (these can be individual or focus groups)

Document analysis

You may be able to source the information you need from documents quite simply but if you ned to undertake a more detailed exploration of the documents you may wish to employ a content analysis process.


 the resource Qualitative Content Analysis will be useful in assisting you to undertake content analysis. Content analysis can be applied to documents and interview transcripts.

Observation of participant activities
When deciding whether observation is a method that is suitable and appropriate for your study you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it compatible with your research aims, questions and paradigmatic approach?
  • How will it add value to your research in addition to or in place of other methods?
  • Are there any ethical, access or other issues that might make observations difficult?
  • How will you collect observational data? Structured template, unstructured, semi-structured?
  • How will you organise your field notes, personal notes etc?
  • Will other data methods be used? If so, how will they add value? If you are seeking to triangulate, how will this data be compatible?

Source: Bryant, M. (nd) Conducting Observational Research

If you do decide observation is a method you wish to use or if you still have some queries about it, this excellent and comprehensive reference on participant bbservation as a data collection method will be useful to you.

Developing a questionnaire survey

While SoTL employs a predominantly qualitative approach to research it is more than likely that you will incorporate a questionnaire in your data collection methods. Designing a valid questionnaire is not as simple as it may appear. This reference, Questionnaires , from The University of Sheffield, provides valuable detail.


 Take a look at these survey question examples (PDF, 97.91 KB). Critique their suitability for inclusion in a questionnaire.

Badly constructed questions can be the source of potential bias in your study and you need to eliminate this as much as possible. Check this list of criticisms of the questions above against your own. Did you notice each of these mistakes? Did you find additional ones?


 this reference on Question Design which will provide you with further consideration when designing questionnaires.

After reading this, return to your data collection questions and develop them into your survey.

Use the Questionnaire Checklist, to review and revise your own survey questions.


 Knopf, J.W. (2006). Doing a Literature Review.

Even if you are familiar with writing literature reviews this paper will be a useful reminder on how to structure your review.


 this website, The literature review process, for a concise overview.

Managing your references. An annotated bibliography is a vital asset for you to develop. Using a tool such as Endnote® will make this much easier. Check your institution’s library for access to Endnote® or similar software for managing your references.

If you are unsure or need a refresher about the components of an annotated bibliography view the website from Cornell University Library (2017), How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography: The Annotated Bibliography.


 Create your next Blog entry. Give it a title, for example, The Literature Review, to share:

  1. How you have searched for and selected literature for your research project
  2. Your key sources of literature
  3. The analysis methodology you used to critique the literature

Watch the video: Dr Peter Kandlbinder - Boyer and Dissemination


Peter introduces you to the notion of Ernest Boyer’s four scholarships: i) discovery; ii) application, iii) Integration; and iv) scholarship of teaching. Ernest Boyer in his seminal publication Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate (1990), challenged the research versus teaching. He wrote:

We believe the time has come to move beyond the tired old "teaching versus research" debate and give the familiar and honorable term "scholarship" a broader, more capacious meaning, one that brings legitimacy to the full scope of academic work. Surely, scholarship means engaging in original research. But the work of the scholar also means stepping back from one's investigation, looking for connections, building bridges between theory and practice, and communicating one's knowledge effectively to students. Specifically, we conclude that the work of the professoriate might be thought of as having four separate, yet overlapping, functions. These are: the scholarship of discovery; the scholarship of integration; the scholarship of application; and the scholarship of teaching. (p 16)

In the video, Peter further points to the notion that dissemination is the criterion for considering teaching research as SoTL. According to Lee Shulman (1999) the scholarship of teaching requires an academic’s work to be:

  • made public
  • available for peer review and critique according to acceptable standards
  • able to be reproduced and added to by other scholars.

You have completed Module 3

Page last updated on 23/09/2020

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