Most of my blog posts from 27 December 2009 to 4 January 2010 are about learning from life stories and narratives. Before I go any further, I feel it is necessary to convey the cautionary remarks of Raymond Lee (2000: 1). He cites Allan Kellehear (1993), who wrote "we ask people about themselves, and they tell us … the assumption is that important 'truths' about people are best gained through talk—a sometimes direct, sometimes subtle, interrogation of experience, attitude and belief". Lee states that the problem with what we gain by simply asking is that it is often influenced by the dynamics surrounding the interaction between the researcher and the researched—the act of eliciting data in itself may affect the truthfulness of the data. Lee then continues to explain what unobtrusive methods/measure mean, namely "data gathered by means that do not involve direct elicitation of information from research subjects". He encourages researchers to be attentive to physical traces (or the cliché 'foot print')—the evidence that people leave behind.
I believe it is important to collect data in different kinds of ways; it is a form of triangulation, i.e. data triangulation to contrast the data and validate the data if it yields similar findings (Groenewald 2003:10). Janesick (2000) promotes the concept crystallisation as a far better lens than triangulation, through which to view especially qualitative research design. The image of a crystal, rather than a land surveyor with a triangle, is put forward. Crystallisation represents a conceptual move from geometry to physics. A crystal combines symmetry and substance with an infinite variety of shapes, transmutations, multi-dimentionsionalities and angles. Crystals grow, change and what is seen when viewed depends on how it is viewed and how we hold it up to the light or not. The notion of crystallisation encourages an eclectic approach to the research design, the synthesis of multiple paradigms and methodology.
Groenewald, T. 2003. The contribution of co-operative education in growing talent. DPhil dissertation, University of Johannesburg. Electronically accessed on 6 January 2009 from: http://hdl.handle.net/10210/106
Janesick, V. J. (2000). The choreography of qualitative research design. In Denzin, N.K. & Lincoln, Y.S. (eds.) (2000). Handbook of qualitative research. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
Kellehear, A. 1993. The unobtrusive researcher: a guide to methods. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin.
Lee, R.M. 2000. Unobtrusive methods in social research. Buckingham: Open University Press.