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Collecting qualitative data

Mai Abu Moghli, Prof Howayda Al Harithy, and Zeina Amro discuss qualitative data collection

Watch the video about the kinds of data the researchers collect to answer their research questions.

The video features Dr Mai Abu Moghli, a researcher from the RELIEF Centre at UCL, Prof Howayda Al Harithy, a Professor of Architecture and Design at the American University of Beirut, and Zeina Amro a doctoral researcher from Kings College London. The researchers discuss different kinds of qualitative data. We recommend watching the videos with English subtitles as they contain both English and Arabic.

Make a note in your Research Notebook of the times in the video that are of most interest to you.

Interviews and observations

Mai explains that she researches education using an ethnographic approach – meaning she is interested in studying people and culture. To understand educational practices, and the experiences and perspectives of those involved, her methods are interviews and observations of classroom activities and exchanges between teachers and learners.

Mental maps

Howayda studies design and architecture, and she wants to find out how people experience their urban environment in order to make improvements, so she collects people’s mental maps. A mental map is an individual’s personal perspective on where they live and researchers can find out how people feel about their environment by interviewing them, or asking them to make drawings of their mental maps or take photographs of a view, or place, that is important to them, for example.


Zeina’s research combines all of these approaches in order to gain a deep understanding of refugees’ experiences. She uses a technique called photovoice where co-researchers are recruited from the community and asked to take photographs relevant to the topic being studied. The photographs are then shared with others in a discussion setting and act as a stimulus to the discussion. The co-researchers’ interpretations of their photographs and the subsequent discussion are as important as the photographs themselves.

Over to you

For your research question, think about the types of qualitative data you could collect and why, note these in your Research Notebook. For inspiration, you could look at this research project conducted in the Beqa’a Valley in Lebanon that combines elements of interviews, photovoice and mental mapping.

Select one of your ideas on what type of qualitative data you would collect and why. Post it to the comments. Reply to at least two other posts, to say whether they have a good reason for their choice, or what else you would suggest.

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