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Table 3 Summary of strengths and limitations of data collection method

From: An exploration of the data collection methods utilised with children, teenagers and young people (CTYPs)

Data collection methods Strengths Limitations
Digital technologies • Young people generally engaged in the digital world. Sense of immediacy 24 hour access. Researchers can ‘access potential participants’ via ‘chain of friends’. Can give voice to marginalised groups (excluded young people). Web based data collection can provide greater anonymity. Good for sensitive topics. Cheaper than more conventional methods e.g. posting questionnaires/interviews. Minimise stigma Open responses May improve response rates • Over-disclosure. Vulnerable to cyber-bullying or security problems. May exclude those from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Harder to establish rapport over the internet/e-mail
Focus Groups • Group setting can prompt debate and discussion. Generates large amount of data • May not be useful for exploring sensitive issues May feel intimidating for some. Need to consider the mix (gender, sex, age)
Questionnaires • May be completed in privacy, over a period of time. Can be sent to large numbers of potential participants. Can gather large quantities of data • Good for quantitative data collection, less so for qualitative data collection. Expensive (postage/administration)
Interviews • Promotes honest responses. Establishing rapport. Researcher can read non-verbal cues Opportunity to probe and explore responses • Social acceptability bias. Power differentials may inhibit responses Cultural and gender differences
Telephone • May be better for sensitive data collection. Access of young people via mobile phones • May be more difficult to interpret In longitudinal research, may increase drop-out rate if phones are lost/numbers changed
Audio diary/diaries • Can record thoughts/feeling as and when. Freedom of expression. Audio diaries can capture the immediacy of experiences and thoughts • Paper diaries may feel too much like homework Paper diaries dependent upon literacy skills. Confidentiality
Arts-based methods • Useful to aid expression. Useful way of capturing attention and establishing rapport It can be fun. Good for exploring sensitive topics • Older adolescents may find it patronising. May benefit from use with other methods. Intimidating if participants lack confidence in creative abilities.