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Data Collection Methodology

Data Collection Methods


The qualitative data collection method selected for this project is ethnography . Our ethnographic methodology will consist of interviews and participant observation. With the use of interviews , we hope to learn, what the participants believe, how they think, and how their lives are affected by incarceration . Our interviews will be semi-structured to answer our research question: How are youth affected emotionally when they are incarcerated? This allows us to access specific information from each interview that would not necessary be available in a quantitative research methodology. With participant observation, we will be able to immerse ourselves into the culture and community of the participants in order to gain knowledge about the intricacies and inner working of their community. Also, by employing this method, we will get a sense of the other systems that impact their lives; and what is important to them.  With the participants’ permission, our team will record the interviews. Ultimately we will transcribe the tapes.  To aid us in the collection of data we will also, with the permission of participants use video graph and take photographs of important contextual information. This methodology is relevant in that, as researchers, we can investigate this critical issue concerning the youth. We hope to develop a better understanding of the design problem.  In our research, we want to evaluate an existing hypothesis which states that : Incarceration does more harm than good when rehabilitating youthful offenders and re-entry into society is difficult.

Population and Sample

Our population of interest  is young men and women ages 13-16. As stated in our methodology, we intend to use a participatory approach to collecting data for this project. Being that our research is qualitative based, we are interested in gaining greater detailed description and explanation from few participants; we will use a non-random sample. We intend to categorize our sample size into male and female, so that we can investigate both gender perspectives. The number of people we will select is approximately 6. (2 per research team member, male and female). The technique we will use for selecting  samples is therefore purposive. We are interested in juveniles with specific characteristics; those who have been incarcerated, and encounter difficulties re-entering society.

Study Site

Some social settings we plan to conduct our study include, participants home and family setting, neighborhoods, courtrooms, schools.  These site were purposefully selected as we presume that we can easily access a variety of observations and interactions, and attitudes. To gain access to these sites, we will acquire permission. In the cases of courtrooms and possibly schools, we will adhere to the laws of the respective jurisdiction.

 Data Collection Procedures: Interviews

As a part of our methodology, we will use interviews. As ethnographic researchers we are privy to the importance of careful research conduct with children.  In framing our interviews, we will ensure that participants are comfortable with disclosing any information. As highlighted in our ethics section, they will be told that there is no obligation to answer any particular question , and that the interview can be stopped at any time. Other than the youth participants; parents/guardians, teachers, court-officers for example, who may provide insight to this research, we will inform them in the same way. They also would be told about the levels of confidentiality. The interview will be semi-structured. We will advise the participants of the approximate duration of each interview. Our time commitment plan is approximately 10-15 minutes. We will adjust accordingly.

We plan to use the four categories of ethnographic interview questions  adapted by J.P Spadley

Sample questions:

Grand Tour Question

Could you describe a typical day?

Details Through Question

Could you give me an example of a typical day in school/program?

Experience question

Could you describe your most difficult experience while incarcerated?

Native-like question

While you were incarcerated, how did you communicate with your peers?

Document Analysis

We will determine  whether or not we have found examples of our concept by the relevance of the data collected. The mediating variables explain how external physical events (incarceration) take on internal psychological significance (harm done to juveniles of the system upon re-entry)




Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview.
Greene, S., & Hogan, D. (Eds.). (2005). Researching children’s experience: Approaches and methods. Sage.


Sharni, Adriana, Ayanna

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