A comparison of three data collection methods: Focus group interview, drawing and open-ended questions

Year: 1994

Author: Mok, Magdalena M, Krause, Kerri-Lee

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This study involves a comparison of the comprehensiveness and data quality of three data collection methods. The methods are: focus group interviews, drawings, and open-ended questionnaire. These methods were used in the same session to elicit responses on the school life experiences of adolescent girls.

The subjects were 39 Year 12 female students from four New South Wales secondary schools. The students were interviewed in groups of four to six for about an hour in their respective schools. At the start of the interviews, each student was asked to represent their school life experiences diagrammatically on A3 paper, using drawings, words or symbols. Then, facilitated by the interviewer, the students were encouraged to share their experiences of school life with the group. The conversations were tape-recorded. The students could add to their drawings during the discussion. At the end of the interviews, students were each given a one-page open-ended questionnaire on their school life.

Results from these three methods of data collection were separately content analysed for themes. The data collection methods were compared for the comprehensiveness of themes, and for data quality. Major findings included: (1) The stress associated with the HSC examinations was the dominating theme, irrespective of the method of data collection. (2) Focus group interviews identified more themes than the other two methods. (3) The students' drawings offered a depth and quality to the data that is perhaps not easily achievable using the other two methods. (4) The open-ended questionnaire was the least effective of the three methods.