Making sense of our data

Making sense of our data

Sean Durbin
17/05/2024

Fieldwork, Post-pandemic | English | UK

Dr Sean Durbin, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Manchester Metropolitan University

When you’ve spent the better part of 12 months, getting to know and getting involved in the communities that are participating in this research project, the amount of information that a researcher gathers can be overwhelming.

In my case, I have spent the past year with different Church of England congregations. During that time I have attended and observed regular services, and participated in community events, including evening Bible studies, weekday cooking classes, and outdoor gardening activities. I have interviewed members and leaders, and simply observed what they have been doing.

All of this is part of the repertoire of research tools that comprise ethnographic research methods, which are used to inform our understanding how these different congregations function and, in our case, interact with the virtual age. Throughout the course of conducting fieldwork like this, drafting fieldnotes about seemingly ordinary things can often be a challenge. I have often asked myself whether something is or isn’t important to jot down. You have to constantly remind yourself that what might not seem significant could end up being very important, so it’s useful make a record of it.

The end result of all of this work, though, is pages and pages of field notes outlining what I saw or experienced at each event I attended, as well as interview recordings from the over twenty interviews conducted as part of my work on this project.

Now, with all this information compiled in some form, I have the task of making sense of it all. This work involves transcribing interviews and coding them for themes and subthemes, not only so that I can develop a coherent picture of my own research findings, but also so that I can share these findings with my colleagues who have been conducting similar research in their own countries.

All of which is to say, making sense of all this data is a time consuming but vitally important part of the research process.

Image credit - Ian Panelo - Pexels

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