Campbell: "Collecting Information: Qualitative Research Methods for Solving Workplace Problems"

Campbell, K. S. (1999). Collecting Information: Qualitative Research Methods for Solving Workplace Problems. Technical Communication, 46(4), 532-45.



Author''s Abstract: Outlines research basics for technical communicators collecting qualitative information in a workplace environment. Discusses: developing researchable questions from workplace experiences; searching existing literature for credible research reports; using observation, artifacts, and interviews as sources of information for answering workplace questions; planning the collection of information so that its credibility is enhanced; and balancing research credibility with business practicalities. (SR)



Argues for need for systematic approaches.


What are qualitative research methods?


words rather than numbers. not always holistic (such as ethnography). Campbell''s goal is to instrctu how to collect info.


What will you learn about qual methods here?


understanding through social sciences lens for shared vocab, systematic basis to research.


Article covers fundamental issues and collection, not analysis.


Fundamental Issues


How do you get from your present situation to a researchable question?


requires both knowledge and practice. focus and refocus question. Iterative process.


How do you guarantee that you do good research?


validity and reliability. balances and tradeoffs (ideal vs budget).


Collecting Qualitative Information


  • Lit search
  • observation
  • artifact search
  • interviews


What do you need to know about collecting information in a literature search?


date of article shows-- databases/abstracts and access.


argues for the sticky/index card w/ question on it. Each time you locate a source, see how it relates to research ques.


How do you collect information through observation?


  • negotiate access to site
  • familiarize yourself with observation site
  • conduct the observation (respect, beneficience, justice)


How do you collect information through an artifact search?


texts, visuals, audio or video


  1. obtain permission to access
  2. collect information from artifacts


How can you collect information with interviews?


best types to collect with i-views


  • facts
  • beliefs about facts
  • feelings and motives
  • standards of action
  • present or past behavior
  • conscious reasons




  1. develop the interview guide (structured or unstructured)
  2. plan the qualitative interview
  3. starting and ending the interview (begin and end with easy questions/invitation)


Implementing Your Qualitative Research Project


How do you decide how, who, what, and how much to study?


  • focus on the research question
  • determine results required for useful response to question
  • determine what data needed/from whom
  • specify practical steps to get and record data


How do you choose examples to study?




  • ensure examples represent variety found in whole population of interest (maximum variation sampling)
  • ensure examples represent typical participant, artifact, or situation in whole population of interest (typical case sampling)
  • ensure examples represent most critical population of interest (critical case sampling)


How do you guarantee the credibility of collected qualitative data?




  • triangulation
  • use more than one person to collect info about same example
  • ask some participants to assess quality of collected information (member checks)
  • do practice run using your methods with real people (pilot studies)


How do you guarantee the business practicality of your information collection plan?


need management support


should be able to show that info collection will (at least one of three):


  • reduce costs
  • increase returns
  • accelerate returns


if questions of interest outside of workplace, may be able to find support through agencies such as STC Research Grants program.




learn by doing.