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Data gathering 5/5 (1)

Understanding qualitative data collection (lecture)

Keywords: qualitative data; ethnography; observation; understanding communities; understanding user; interview.

Aims and Rationale

The aim of this activity is for the students to familiarise themselves with the collection of qualitative data. Qualitative methods are heavily used in HCI for their efficacy in terms of exploring usability issues are the perceptions of users around technology. Additionally, the use of qualitative methods has become paradigmatic in heritage studies, too. As the study of heritage is become more and more about communities, hence humans, heritage studies have started to import qualitative methods typical of other disciplines, such as anthropology and sociology. These methods represent a solid set of tools for investigating the area around cultural heritage and community. The suggested lecture format of this reflects the focus on providing grounding in the most relevant topics.

Learning Outcomes and Associated Areas of Knowledge

Identify the different uses for qualitative data in the area of ICH and its relationship to quantitative approaches

Examine effective ways to carry out participant observations

Identify the most effective uses for interview methods

21st Century skills

  • Scientific Literacy
  • Research Skills and Practices



How to

You can download our suggested slides and edit them according to your needs. These slides are made available via a Creative Commons Licence.

Alternatively, you can create your own set of visual aids based on this activity guide and the slides. However, we suggest that the following points are not overlooked:

  • The difference between quantitative and qualitative methods;
  • When to use and how to behave during a participant observation;
  • When to use and how to carry out an interview.


Engineering and computer science students may be accustomed to associating data with numbers or calculations. It may be difficult for them to treat words, descriptions, and interpretations as data. To challenge this view, model circumstances in which quantitative data would not be appropriate to explore a phenomenon (i.e., understanding the reasons for certain human behaviours in specific situations or the meaning of certain actions).

Assessment for Learning

Assessment for learning in this activity is complemented by a series of extended activities which provide hands-on opportunities for demonstrating the identification and subsequent application of qualitative data and to review its relevance. The effective method and uses of qualitative research methods are best explored through these practices approaches.

Assessment 'How to'

Follow the instructions in the Ethnography skills and Interview skills activity pages to set up an observational exercise and a mock qualitative interview to enhance the skills and assess the students’ learning.

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Download Word File of activity in English


  • Explain the difference between quantitative and qualitative data, and when the latter is to be used.
  • Explain the difference between open and close-ended questions.
  • Remark the importance of the stages within an interview.
  • Stress the importance between observation and interpretation.