Data Collection Methods Overview

The first four methods below you are probably aware off. One aspect to keep in mind. The methods should come from the methodology. So if you are using Survey Design as methodology it is inevitable to actually end up designing a questionnaire for your SoTL project. Other methodologies are much more open to what types of methods you can use to collect your data, so here going back to your research question might be useful.

Validity and Reliability

Both can be tricky to establish or argue in educational inquiries.

You might find this article useful:
Lynn Fendler (2016) Ethical implications of validity-vs.-reliability trade-offs in educational research, Ethics and Education, 11:2, 214-229, DOI: 10.1080/17449642.2016.1179837


Podcast about the creation of questionnaire design for SoTL with Dr VHM Dale


Gubrium, J. F., Holstein, J. A., Marvasti, A. B., & McKinney, K. D. (2012). The SAGE handbook of interview research: The complexity of the craft (2nd ed.). SAGE Publications, Inc.

Focus Groups

Barbour, R. (2018). Introducing focus groups. In Doing focus groups (pp. 1-14). SAGE Publications Ltd,

Mind you some research differentiate between Focus Groups and Group Discussions. The main point of difference is clear in the name of the method. Group Discussions tend to me more open, less directed, and usually are set within the natural environment of the social phenomenon you want to explore. So for instance:

  • Focus Group with students: usually a fixed set of questions, and some prompts, a small number of students is invited into a quiet space, the interviewer usually tries to ballance the contributions (quiet versus very engaged participants)
  • Group Discussion: usually a list of prompts, meet the natural cohort size (e.g. seminar of 15 students), in the typical teaching space, interviewers usually lets the conversation move led by the participants, only goes back to questions if these are not naturally covered
  • Keep in mind that is not written in stone and different people have varying perspectives on this. Find one that suits you, that sits well with answering your research questions.


This Sway provides an overview of different observation methods

Observation can be either structured or unstructured and can produce both quantitative and qualitative data.

In structured observation, the observer stands outside the processes being observed and records in a systematic way, usually in relation to a previously established coding schedule, the number and duration of aspects of social behavior.

At its simplest, unstructured observation might be just the passive (and perhaps covert) recording of aspect and duration of behavior without any pre-coded schedule being deployed. The term can also cover ethnographic approaches involving some degree of participation in the social action being observed.

Byrne, D. (2017). What is observation?. Project Planner. 10.4135/9781526408563.

Creative Research Methods

Please subscribe to the ADD YouTube channel for updates on most recent CPD and SoTL CPD. Here is the first session from 2022, using data music.

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