Friday, 21 March 2014

Post 10: Corresponding with Research Participants

Now that I've pretty well concluded my transcribing phase, I'm realizing that the really fun part is beginning: I'm getting to look across all of my interviews, instead of handling them one by one. I am looking at their content and the themes that all the participants were discussing, and getting back in touch with them for follow-up questions, and asking them to explain further what X meant, and what implications they see as a result of Y that they mentioned on page P.

It's also a strange kind of excited stress! I have only positive memories from my research trips to Edmonton and Prince George, and then all the local visits and Skype phone calls with the other scientists I was unable to meet in person. The visits to each of the cities and different landscapes were a blast! Getting to hear firsthand about the process and perspectives on research ongoing behind the scenes that you don't really get from reading the academic and other published articles was in part my motivation for seeking these people out.

                            A slightly different kind of communication: homemade postcards I put
                            together last fall.

So, a part of me is excited again to be emailing them and looking forward to hearing back from them; another part of me is terrified and cautious about the phrasing that I use in each sentence in the emails. Tone is something that is always difficult to discern in email or online, so I try to be very careful and accurate about expressing myself in these written mediums.

If you are a social scientist and are stressing about getting back to your research participants, here's my tip:

Take your time with composing the emails (or whichever your mode of communication). Handle each one with care; spend the time to review the transcript, to compose (or add to) the follow-up questions you've been making, and to be as clear as possible. Go carefully through the notes you've been keeping to sort out the important follow-up questions. The interview was the fun part, but it doesn't stop there.

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