3.2 Documenting data

An EAR researcher must keep a record of all the data they collect. Research documentation is an integral part of the research process. It entails keeping a clear and detailed record of all the data you have collected and usually takes the form of detailed notes, transcripts, diagrams, maps and charts, or other materials. The more detailed and clear your notes are at the time of doing research, the easier it will be to utilise your research findings later.

Write it down

Everything you learn during your field work should be recorded. Make sure you write detailed field notes often. Make clear notes or full transcriptions of all interviews, group discussions and focus groups. Take photographs and keep examples of users' activities (radio recordings, websites, writings, and so on) when this might be useful to your research.

Documentation is fundamental. An EAR researcher will probably need 1-2 hours every research day for writing up field notes, interview notes or transcripts, notes from a participatory technique or from a short questionnaire survey. It can take up to six hours to transcribe a single hour of tape-recorded interview. This is an important part of the research process and working hours should be allocated to these activities.

EAR is a continuous process and future research will be guided by your earlier research data. Read through your notes and become familiar with the research stories that are beginning to emerge. This will allow you to start making sense of the data and ensure it is fully utilised in your site, and the community.

As the research develops over weeks and months, this body of notes and research material will become a very precious asset to an initiative, a detailed history and picture of the initiative and the community. But only if it is documented fully - write it all down!

What is my data telling me?

By reading through your research data regularly you will begin to work out what the research is telling you and what it has to offer the local community, your ICT initiative and general stakeholders. As a result of this process you will:

  • Begin to identify interesting and significant issues that are emerging.
  • Develop ideas and interpretations that you can then pursue through further research.
  • Explore ideas and issues across all the different kinds of data you are gathering through using different methods.

In analysis we start by looking for common themes, ideas, issues or questions that are emerging across the data. It is impossible to analyse data properly unless it is on paper or in electronic form. Through reflecting regularly on your data, it is easier to maintain an awareness of the general direction it is taking you in. You can see where earlier research is linked to later research, and you can properly follow through on some key topics or themes.