Data collection and management - Methods

Discursive Psychology: Theory, Method and Applications - Sally Wiggins 2017

Data collection and management

At the heart of a discursive psychology (DP) project is the data set: the collection of words and interaction that you will analyse. This is the reason many of us became interested in DP in the first place, because we were curious about how people talk about things and how different kinds of interaction have consequences for people as they live their lives. This is where we can examine all the complexity and messiness of social interaction: whether chatting with friends, discussing responsibilities at work or making decisions on immigration policies. So this is the exciting part, where your research questions and interests are translated into practice. There are, however, a few issues that you will need to work through first. You will need to consider what type of data to use, how you will gain access to this data source, how you will record the data, and how you will store and/or archive the data. The process of data collection and management is thus one of the most practical phases of your research project. Due to the reliance on technology and other people for data collection, this is also the part where things are most likely to go wrong. Prepare yourself for this: allow for extra time, have alternative options that you can use if your first choice does not work out, and most of all, stay calm. No research project is perfect and we can often learn unexpected things when something goes wrong or if we make a mistake. There is usually something that can be analysed: even small sections of discourse and interaction can show important features of psychological business being performed. While you might have ideas and research questions about what you think you will find or analyse, once you begin to collect data you may be surprised. Like Forrest Gump and the box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Types of data for DP research

Before we can identify what types of data are appropriate for DP research, we first need to be clear about what data actually are. In DP research, data consists of the ways in which people produce words in social settings and interact with other people. These can include: the things people say, the words people write (i.e., different forms of talk and text), and the gestures, eye gaze and physical movements they make while talking and interacting with other people. So data for DP is as much about social practices as it is about discourse; someone talking to themselves in a room, or writing in a diary is not primarily a social setting and, in that sense, solitary acts of talking or writing are not of interest to DP. What is important is that the discourse is part of social actions.

In a similar way, while DP is primarily considered a ’qualitative’ approach, this does not mean that numbers are not relevant or used in DP research. Indeed, sometimes it is through counting the number of times a particular word is used in interaction, or the proportion of one type of phrase compared with another, can alert us to some interesting analytical points. My own research on family mealtime interaction, for example, has benefitted from identifying how frequently a particular kind of phrase (e.g., ’I like’ or ’mmm’) occurs in interaction, and how often it is used by different kinds of people. This can alert us to emerging trends in the data, rather than any statistically significant calculations. So the distinction between qualitative and quantitative methodologies is less helpful here; what is important is the approach that is taken towards discourse and interaction.

Our guiding principles, then, to determine the types of data that are suitable for DP are those that feature both of the following elements:

· Social interaction or a social setting, e.g., spoken with or for other people, or where the textual data are visible and responded to in a social setting. Social interaction can be broadly defined as: face-to-face, on the telephone, or online. In this way, we can also examine the ways in which interaction is mediated through different tools and technologies (such as computers and telephones).

· Discursive practices, e.g., some form of talking and/or writing. DP research typically focuses on discourse that occurs in everyday life, rather than within interviews or focus groups, because the concern is how psychological business is implicated in social actions (for a detailed discussion on this, see Box 4.2).

The type of data (and how much) you collect will be dependent on a range of issues, such as the purpose of the research (e.g., as a practical exercise for an undergraduate class or a large grant proposal), your level of experience with DP research, your access to different social groups or institutions and the ethical issues that arise from your particular research focus (see Box 4.1 for some suggestions on data collection when you are short on time). You may well have been given some data to work with for a class assignment, or be using data that were previously collected for a different project (i.e., secondary data analysis). Practicalities are paramount, and it is better to undertake a small and modest piece of data collection and to analyse this thoroughly than to tackle something ambitious that will leave you no time for analysis. So in all decisions you make, work through the time and resource constraints that you have as well as the likelihood that your ideal choice may not work out as planned (see the section on ’gaining access’).

Box 4.1: When you need some data, like, yesterday

There may be occasions when you need to find a small piece of data quickly, such as for a classroom assignment or when you want to practise your analytical skills before you move onto your main data collection. In this case, the internet is a valuable source of video and audio clips (as well as huge volumes of written text) that can be accessed relatively quickly and easily. Take care, however, to ensure that the data you are using is publicly accessible, and that you are not breaching ethical considerations in using these data. To give you some ideas, some of my own students have used the following kinds of material as data for short class assignments: television documentaries, sitcoms, stand-up comedy routines, radio phone-in shows and televised political debates. Using data that appears very familiar (such as your favourite comedy show) can be illuminating as well as fun; it may leave you with a totally different perspective on what is going on in the talk (see Stokoe, 2008, for an analysis of breaching social norms in the American sitcom Friends, for example). While some of this material might be scripted or edited — and therefore not naturalistic or researcher-generated — they can still be used as examples of talk and interaction to practise your analytical skills before you move onto a more formal data collection procedure.

In summary, the following list provides examples of the types of data that are suitable for DP research, and examples of how these might be used (see also Table 9.1 in Chapter 9 for examples of DP research by data type):

· Face-to-face interaction: any form of interaction between people in a face-to-face setting.

o Everyday settings (e.g., in family homes, cafés and public places)

o Institutional settings (e.g., in schools, workplaces or medical establishments)

o Researcher-generated settings (e.g., in interviews, focus groups or experimental situations)

· Mediated interaction (talk): these can be most forms of interaction between people that are mediated by a physical object or piece of technology.

o Telephone conversations (e.g., with family or friends, or with organisations)

o Radio programmes where discussion is the primary form of activity (e.g., chat shows, discussion panels, news interviews)

o Televised discussion programmes, particularly those which are broadcast live or are less-heavily edited or scripted (e.g., talk shows, audience-participation debates, documentaries, political speeches and debates)

o Video chat online (e.g., Skype, FaceTime, Adobe Connect)

· Mediated interaction (text)

o Online discussion forums

o Text-based helplines on the internet

o Facebook chat

o Twitter messages

o Texting on mobile phones (cell phones)

Similarly, it can be helpful to know what data are not suitable for DP research, and why this is so. These can include the following:

· Solitary acts of speaking or writing (e.g., talking to oneself, writing a diary) because although they involve discourse of some kind, there is no social action being performed here; these are primarily individual actions.

· Purely visual data, such as photographs, silent videos or images, because there is no discourse to analyse. These could be included, however, if people are talking about them (such as friends talking about photographs on social media sites).

· Social interaction where people are not speaking (this does not include people who are using sign language, which is a form of discourse in itself). While in practice there may be social actions being enacted in such settings, if there is no discourse to analyse, then it will be difficult — particularly for new DP researchers — to identify what psychological constructs are being used in this setting.

Box 4.2: The naturalistic data debate

There has been considerable debate within discursive research about the relative status of different kinds of data and of the privileging of ’naturalistic’ interaction over more structured means of data collection, such as interviews and focus groups (e.g., Edwards & Stokoe, 2004; Griffin, 2007; Potter & Hepburn, 2005; Rapley, 2015; Speer, 2002; see also Chapter 1). The debate centres around whether or not we should use data that have been ’researcher-generated’ or ’contrived’, or what Potter (2004) referred to as the ’dead researcher test’ (i.e., would the interaction have taken place if the researcher was killed on the way to work that morning? If it wouldn’t, then it is considered researcher-generated). Those who are cautious about using interview or focus group data argue that it tells us more about ’how people behave in interviews’ than it does about the topic being studied; that people’s discursive practices will only ever be a product of the question-answer framework of the research setting. On the other hand, others argue that we should not set up a dichotomy between natural and contrived data, and that all research settings are in some way researcher-generated. Even so-called ’naturalistic’ data involve the actions of the researcher — we have requested permission and either provided video/audio cameras or set these up ourselves — to acquire recordings we have had to intervene in some way. So it is a question of how much involvement the researcher has had in the unfolding of the interaction being studied. This is a live and contentious issue, and one which has implications not only for what kind of social interactions are studied, but also for how such research is published and responded to by other researchers. As discussed in Chapter 1, the status of different kinds of data often lies at the core of theoretical distinctions between different kinds of discourse analysis. Whatever stance you take on this, there are often very practical and ethical limitations that might restrict your choices or which might lead you to one form of data collection over another. For instance, those conducting an undergraduate project may have only limited time, resources and access to participants which precludes more adventurous research ideas. For those developing more advanced research in DP, however, this is an issue that you will need to be aware of and address at some point in the analysis and dissemination stages if you are using more structured means of data collection.

How much data do I need?

This might possibly be the most common question for those embarking on a DP project when they begin to consider data collection: how much data do I need? In fact, it is exactly the kind of thing that other researchers — whatever their analytical approach — need to consider, as the sample size can determine whether or not your research is valid. The quick answer, though probably the one you don’t want to hear, is that there are no rigid rules about how much (or how little) you need. It all depends on what kind of project you are undertaking: how much time and equipment you have, what your research questions are, and the purpose of the project. The following can be used as guidelines, however, to help you plan ahead and to give a sense of what you should be aiming for when collecting data.

The first rule-of-thumb is to collect enough data that will enable you to make robust claims about your data. If you choose too small a sample, you will not have enough data to be able to identify sufficient patterns in the data; too large a sample and you will not be able to manage and realistically work with the data. In the case of DP research, more data is not necessarily better. What you are aiming for are analyses that are coherent, consistent with the context, and add insight or a new approach to the data. It also depends on your research question: you may need lots of instances of one type of interaction (such as telephone helpline calls) or one type of psychological concept (such as gender identity). Working with naturalistic data will often mean that you cannot predict when the discursive practice that you are interested in (such as gender identity in telephone helpline calls) is made relevant in the recorded data. This can mean that you might have to estimate how much data you will need, then review the corpus as you are collecting it. You may have to collect more, or less, data than initially anticipated.

It can often be more appropriate to consider hours of data needed as a guide to the amount that will be sufficient for your project. This could then cover different forms of data that have been audio- or video-recorded. For textual data, we can consider pages of data as an alternative indicator: i.e., how many sheets of paper, using a standard font (around 10 to 12 point size) and single-spaced lines. The following can be used as suggested amounts of data for different types of project, though you should also be guided by your own institutional or tutor recommendations:

· For a small project — such as a classroom activity taking place over one to two weeks —around 1—2 hours of video/audio data (or 15—20 pages of paper) should be sufficient. Not all of this will need to be fully analysed, but it should provide a searchable corpus for a specific, narrow example.

· For a medium project — such as an undergraduate dissertation level (circa 6—9 months) or coursework at undergraduate or Master’s level — around 5—10 hours of video/audio data (or 40—80 pages of paper).

· For a long project — over a few months, such as a Master’s project (circa 6—9 months) or doctoral research (circa 3—5 years) — then anywhere between 20 and 40 hours of video/audio data (or around 100 pages of paper) should be sufficient. This is obviously dependent on the specifics of the project and the quality of the data.

Gaining access: ethics, consent and trust

Once you have decided what type of data you might use for your DP project, the next step will be working through the issues of gaining access to this data, including securing ethical approval from your institution, identifying your participants and obtaining consent from them (if the data involves direct contact with participants). Remember that we are going to be analysing people’s discursive practices, even if we never meet our participants directly, or seek to analyse them as individuals. We are going to be analysing their words in more detail than they might ever have imagined. So we need to be respectful of the fact that discourse is produced by people, and that we may be delving into areas of their lives that could be private or very sensitive. Your research should never knowingly cause anyone harm, whether psychologically or physically, either at the time of data collection or at the point of reporting and publishing research. Without the consent of participants, or without the publicly available nature of much online discourse, we would not have anything to analyse. Data are only data because we treat them as such, and first we need to be sure that we can treat discursive practices as data.

Chapter 3 raised some of the ethical considerations that go along with discursive research in the context of developing your research question. As noted there, what you might find is that your ideas about research questions can change once you start addressing the practical and ethical considerations. An idea to examine children’s playground activities at school, for example, might involve more time to develop trust with schools and gain consent from schools, parents and children than you have available (this might be more feasible for a doctoral study than an undergraduate project). So you may need to be more creative in your ideas for data sources. It is also worth remembering that even sensitive or personal topics are not necessarily off-limits. Hepburn and Potter (2003) demonstrate how such areas can be accessible if people are approached in the right way. One thing to bear in mind when seeking consent to collect data from participants is that DP focuses on discourse and social practices; on people interacting, rather than people as individuals. In that sense, it can help to reassure people that the analysis will focus on the small details of talk, and on their interaction as an example of how people talk in different settings.

Gaining ethical approval is typically sought through a university or research organisation, and procedures will vary depending on where you are located. This usually involves completing a form, and preparing information sheets, consent forms (see Box 4.3 for an example consent form), and any advertisements that you might use to recruit participants. You will need to be very clear about each stage of your research project, including details about the participants, what kind of data you will be collecting and what you will be doing with it, before ethical approval will be considered. It can be frustrating at times to have to consider this in so much detail — and this is particularly the case if the project depends on successfully gaining funding — but it is an important stage and ensures that you work through exactly how the research will proceed. It can help you to work through the practicalities of your research and identify any issues that might need to be adapted.

When using video data, some specific ethical implications will need to be considered:

· You need to capture the actual words that people use, in the setting that they use them. This means that you need a detailed audio and/or video record of their talk (i.e., their voice and their words). Taking notes or summarising a ’gist’ of what they have said is not sufficient for DP analysis. So as a basic requirement, you need to gain permission from participants to record and use their talk as data, and you need to do this in advance of the day of recording. You should never secretly video- or audio-record anyone; this is not only disrespectful to others and unethical, but also potentially dangerous (if the people you are recording become violent or aggressive, for example).

· When analysing your data, you will begin to collect together instances of a particular action or feature of the talk (e.g., reference to a category of person), and so large sections of the data might feature as part of the coded corpus. One person’s talk is also interwoven with the rest of the interaction, so individual contributions are not easily separated. For these reasons, it is not easy to extract individual participants’ contributions at a later date. It is advisable, then, to be very specific about the time period in which participants can withdraw from the study (for example, up to one week after recordings have been collected, or even before the equipment is returned to the researcher). While many studies can suggest, and at times ethics committees can require, that you allow for participants to withdraw at any time, in practice you cannot withdraw one person’s data once the analysis is complete and your report published. One way in which I deal with this issue in my research on family mealtimes is to give the family members full control over the recordings. The video cameras I use allow them to easily review what has been recorded, and delete anything that they do not want to be used.

· When disseminating your research (see Chapter 8) — whether in a poster or oral presentation, or written up in a journal article or book — it is increasingly common to see images or short sections of video that can help to clarify or exemplify a particular analytical point. If possible, therefore, seek permission to use still images or short sections from the video recordings for presentations and publications.

· While you are collecting this data for a specific project, it is likely that there will be a number of issues or areas you might focus on in the analysis, and so a good chance of the possibility of secondary analysis of the data. If possible, therefore, seek permission to use the data for subsequent analyses (see also section on storing and archiving data).

The process of gaining ethical approval and discussing your research with potential participants can be time-consuming and challenging. People who initially seemed keen to take part in the research might have reservations later on and decide not to continue. Finding anyone suitable, or gaining access to socially marginalised settings (such as where there is no public access, or where people interact with one another in intimate or exclusive locations), can require patience, openness and a willingness to try different approaches. It may help to involve someone you have met and gained a working relationship with, who can help you to access any other participants that might be recorded (a ’gate-keeper’). Sometimes, however, you will have to compromise on your ideal data setting. At the end of the day, research takes second place to people’s rights to privacy and choice, and there is almost always something else that we can do to find the data that best fits our project.

Data collected from mediated sources — such as textual interaction on the internet — also brings with it a set of ethical considerations, even if you may not meet people directly or video- or audio-record their interactions. For example, you might want to analyse the discussions in an online forum where a sensitive topic is being discussed. You will need to make a decision as to whether you will inform the forum moderators and members about your research: will you seek their permission to use the text as data? How will you gain that permission? Would seeking permission actually cause more harm? These are challenging questions to consider, and while there are no simple answers, it is important that you work carefully through any decisions made about the research, particularly at the data collection stage.

Box 4.3: Sample consent form

This is an example of a consent form that I have used when collecting data from families to record mealtimes in their homes in the UK. It is given to the adults in the family and a simplified version can be given to older children. Note that to take part in the project, the participants must consent to all items in this list, though the last two items are optional (and have a clear yes/no indicator so that participants can opt in or out of these). Different ethical priorities or considerations may require different levels of consent or participant involvement in other cultures or institutions.

Consent form: Everyday mealtime project: video recordings in the family home

· I confirm that I have read and understood the information sheet for the above project and the researcher has answered any queries to my satisfaction.

· I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw from the project at any time up until the return of the video equipment, without having to give a reason and without any consequences.

· I understand that I have full control over which of my family mealtimes are recorded, and which are returned to the researcher to be included in the project.

· I understand that any personal information recorded in the investigation will remain confidential and no information that identifies me will be made publicly available; though I understand that it is not possible to anonymise any audio or visual details on the video and that myself and other members of my family may be recognised visually or audibly.

· I understand that the video data and anonymised transcripts will be retained for at least five years in order for further analyses to be conducted, and to combine my data with that from other families.

· I consent to being audio and video recorded as part of the project.

· I consent to being a participant in the project.

· I consent to still images from the video being used for academic presentations or published reports. Yes/No

· I consent to short video clips being used for academic presentations. Yes/No

· Name (please print):

· Signature:

· Date:

Recording data: video and audio equipment

The equipment needed for data collection depends primarily on what kind of data you are aiming to use for your project. If you are collecting data from the internet, then see Box 4.4. For face-to-face interaction, the most common form of data is video or audio recordings. If you have a choice between audio and video, always collect video recordings, as this provides you with details about the physical space and people’s movements within that space, as well as the discursive practices themselves. It can also help you to identify who is speaking and when, particularly if you are recording more than three or four people at a time (and they have similar voices). Distinguishing who has laughed or coughed, for example, can be almost impossible by audio recordings alone, unless that person has a very distinctive voice. DP analysis relies on understanding the detail of what and how something has been said, and this includes an examination of the visual aspects of the setting: such as eye gaze, bodily orientations and gestures.

The basic equipment you will need is:

· A video camera or audio recorder to record the interaction (this can be part of a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet)

· A tripod or fixing device to hold the video camera steady

· Memory cards or external hard-drive to save the data

· Power cable or batteries for the recording device

Depending on the type of video recording equipment you use, you may also need an external microphone. This is a separate microphone that plugs into your recording device, which may require a separate power supply, so make sure that you have fresh batteries in these before you start recording (and make sure that you switch it on before you record, and off once you have finished).

The growth of digital and mobile devices has made the process of capturing video and audio data relatively easy. The emergence of smartphones, tablets and other portable computing devices, alongside the rise of social media and video-sharing platforms online (such as YouTube), means that people are already documenting their lives in different ways. It is more commonplace to see video cameras being used; in fact, this has led some to argue that we now live in a ’surveillance society’. Regardless of the political implications of this, for researchers interested in discourse and interaction, it means that recording people is no longer treated as an unusual or overly obtrusive activity. It also means that you are likely to have access to video recording equipment on your own smartphone or tablet. In many cases, the quality of image and sound will be of a high enough standard to allow you to use these for your own data collection. See Box 4.5 for a checklist of technical specifications and practical tips for setting up the recording equipment.

Box 4.4: Collecting online data

The various stages and complexities of setting up video cameras or audio equipment may be daunting, and you may be tempted to think of using online data as an easier way of finding some data for your DP project (see also Box 4.1). While in some ways the process is simpler, using online data is not the easy option. It is a different way in which people interact with each other in everyday life, and for that, it is becoming increasingly convoluted. For instance, people may be connected through numerous social media sites and interacting on these while also engaged in face-to-face conversation; so the line between online and offline interaction is blurred. Research in this area is in the early stages and the full benefits of this area for DP analyses have yet to be realised. In terms of data collection, your main concern will be to find and use data that are publicly accessible; that is, from a source that anyone can access without a password. This might include textual data (such as discussion forums) or talking data (such as videos on YouTube or a news channel). For textual data, you will need to copy and save the text in its original format (e.g., with emoticons, images and text layout) in a word document. Keep a note of the website/url from where you accessed the data, and on what date and time you downloaded it (internet data can change at any point in time). For talking data, you may need to find some way of downloading the sound or video files to be able to use them when you are not connected to the internet. You could also make use of an archive of existing data that has been collected by other researchers. As the move towards ’open data’ develops, this may become an increasingly common way in which we use data for DP research. The ’Talkbank’ ( site is worth investigating for this purpose, and has specific data collected from child language learning settings.

Box 4.5: Video technical specifications

· As a basic requirement, you will need one video camera. Where possible, use two video cameras to capture different angles of the interaction. Place these at angles to each other, and consider how they might be positioned to best capture different facial expressions or bodily movements.

· Aim to have sufficient memory space on your storage disk/memory card that will allow you to collect multiple interactions without continually needing to download the files onto a computer.

· Record in a format that will allow for high-quality recordings but not so large that the video files are unmanageable or take up extensive storage space.

· Use a tripod to position your video camera carefully. Some small tripods have flexible legs that can be used to secure the camera from a different angle.

· If you are unsure about the battery time of your video camera, record if possible near a power socket, so that you can plug the camera into the mains electricity while recording.

There may be occasions, however, when audio recording is more appropriate, perhaps because you do not have access to video equipment, or the topic is deemed too sensitive to include visual images, or else the data only exist in audio form (such as a telephone conversation). In this case, all the notes above about selecting the best quality equipment still stand.

You should also take time to practise with your recording equipment. Set it up in different locations in your home, for example, to find out how to position the camera or recorder for the clearest visual recording and to capture the sound well. Different rooms and surfaces will have different acoustic implications. Large rooms with lots of hard surfaces (e.g., wooden floors) and no soft furnishings (e.g., sofas, curtains, rugs), for example, can increase the chances of echo on the recording. Busy cafés or other public spaces are likely to have lots of external noise (from people, electronic devices or traffic) that will make it challenging to capture just the interaction that you want to capture. Remember that our perception of sound filters out noises that we are not attending to, but a video camera picks up all sound according to its volume rather than its relevance to our perception. We do not always hear a ticking clock, for instance, or can ’tune out’ of background noise, but a video camera is not as sophisticated as our ears and brain. Recording in a public place can therefore raise practical as well as ethical challenges: you will need to consider how you will gain good quality recordings, while also being aware that not everyone in that public place will have given consent to be recorded.

Other technological developments are opening up new ideas for discursive and interactional research, such as ’smartpens’ (e.g., by Livescribe, Neo or Echo), which not only digitally transfer your handwritten notes to your computing devices, but can also in some cases audio-record at the same time. This kind of tool can be used to capture people talking while making notes during a meeting, for example, and can be combined with video recordings to capture the visual details as well (see Wright, 2014, for an example of this used in beer-tasting competitions).

Storing and archiving digital data

Once you have collected some data — whether audio, video or text-based — and are almost ready to transcribe it, you will also need to consider how to store and archive your data for future use. If you are using DP for a short class project, or an undergraduate dissertation, you may feel that there is no need to store or archive your data beyond the point at which your report or analysis is complete and has been assessed. There may be ethical requirements for you to use your data only for your current project and for it to be destroyed as soon as the academic year has finished. Indeed, in some institutions it is commonplace to state on consent forms that data will be destroyed within five years, the assumption being that data should not be kept and was only to be used for a specific, named project. Since around the beginning of the 2000s, however, there has been a shift towards the need for long-term storage and sharing of data through open-access policies. ’Open access’ data are data that can be used or accessed by other researchers to gain the maximum benefit from the data set. The widespread use of digital data means that it is relatively easy to transfer even large video files from one device to another. Multiple copies can therefore easily be made, and this means that data can physically last longer than in previous, older formats. For those working on Master’s projects and beyond, the issues surrounding open-access are worth considering in more detail (see Corti et al., 2014). In terms of storing and archiving your own data for any size of DP project, there are some important steps that you need to take:

1. Always store your video/audio data in at least two locations: such as a laptop or computer hard-drive, as well as an external hard-drive or cloud storage. This will be invaluable in case of technical failure and worth the expense of back-up storage.

2. Always label your data files with information about the date, time, location and/or the participants. For example, ’310715 Smith breakfast SWScot’ tells me that the video was recorded on 31 July 2015, by the Smith family (pseudonym), at breakfast, and they are based in south-west Scotland.

3. Store your data in a file format (such as .mp4/MPEG-4 for video data) that will retain all the detail of the original recordings, while also enabling the files to be opened on different computing systems (e.g., PC or Apple Macintosh). Avoid compressing the files as this can reduce some of the video or audio quality.

4. Always password-protect the files (whether on your computer, laptop, external hard-drive or cloud storage).

5. Never share the files (i.e., original recordings or unanonymised transcripts) via email, phone messaging or social media sites, unless it is a small section that is being used for presentation or publication purposes. Doing so can leave ’traces’ of the files on different computer servers or personal devices that could be accessed by someone else. If you need to share data, use an encrypted or password-protected file-sharing website or USB memory stick.

The processes involved in storing and archiving data can seem lengthy, particularly if you are only dealing with small amounts of data. But they are examples of good practice, and it just takes time for them to become a routine part of research. Start small and gradually build up to maintaining your data in a manageable and organised format. Do not try to do it all at once or it may become overwhelming. It is also easy to underestimate the extent to which technology can be superseded by new versions in a short space of time. So while we can use new technology to our advantage, we also need to bear in mind how shifts in technology have the potential to reduce the shelf-life of our usable data.

Box 4.6: Checklist for storing and archiving video- and audio-recorded data

· Ensure that you have consent from participants to store and archive the data.

· Consider how and when you will transfer the recordings into other locations (e.g., laptop, computer, external hard-drive).

· Decide on how many storage locations you will use, and always store in at least two places in case of equipment failure.

· Ensure that all storage locations are password-protected and stored securely.

· Ensure that all video/audio files are labelled clearly with time and date of recording.

· Keep a record of all labelled files with details about participants in a separately stored file to ensure anonymity is maintained.

· Check whether you will need to back up the data in the future (i.e., if some formats are likely to degrade or become technologically obsolete in a few years’ time).

· If you choose to destroy your data, ensure that all copies are destroyed and that this is done completely (physical destruction of hard-drives may be needed, or use software to permanently erase the original files).

· If sharing data, ensure that this is encrypted (encoded securely, so that it needs a ’key’ to unlock or decode the information in the file) and, where possible, share using a secure website or with a copy on an external hard-drive.

Key points

· The data collection stage can be one of the most exciting but also the most unpredictable and challenging stages of our DP project. Be prepared.

· DP can use many different types of data, though there are heated debates around using researcher-generated data which may impact on your research choices.

· Consider and seek approval for ethical issues before you begin collecting data.

· New technologies provide interesting opportunities to record data in different ways and in different settings.

· Good quality data are essential to a good DP project. Take your time to do it properly.

· Always create copies of your data files and organise them carefully.

Recommended reading

Corti, L., Van den Eynden, V., Bishop, L. & Woollard, M. (2014). Managing and sharing research data: A guide to good practice. London: Sage.

Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J. & Luff, P. (2010). Video in qualitative research: Analysing social interaction in everyday life. London: Sage.