Children's Research Centre
Research with and by Children and Young People

Multiple types and ways of collecting data

Multiple types (multimodal) and multiple ways of collecting data help to ensure that sufficient reliable data is collected to answer study research questions and ensure high quality research.

Data Gathering
Multimodal ways of collecting data also:
  • Provides a range of options which may appeal to a broader range of young people to join a research study
  • Sets a positive tone for the study by signalling to young people that participation is not prescriptive but flexible with options
  • Provides a tangible/practical subject for early dialogue and engagement with young people/potential participants about the study
  • Demonstrates that young people’s ideas are welcomed and sets a participatory context early in the research process
  • Could help guard against adult researcher assumptions about the most effective way of gathering data and the sort of data needed to answer the research question
  • Potentially provides a range of different insights about a topic
There are an infinite number of combinations of data collection methods which can be used to collect sufficient reliable information to answer research questions. What might multimodal data collection look like? Two examples:

Research studies using multiple ways to collect data

1. Research question seeking young people’s knowledge or views on an aspect of their lives e.g. How important is it to recycle waste products?

Type of data to answer the research question:
  • Photographs/video associated with what makes recycling important/or not to young people.
  • Breadth of surveyed views of young people’s peers on aspects about recycling young people chose to investigate.
  • Recorded discussion which probes and gives more detail about a). the meanings in photos/videos recorded and b). the views sought and expressed from the survey

2. Research question seeking to explore a young people’s experience or feelings about something in their lives e.g. the experience of returning to leisure activities after COVID-19 lockdown

Exploration diagram
Type of data to answer the research question:
  • Researcher’s/coresearcher’s observations, which might inform their understanding of the leisure activity which may or may not be as the young person experienced it
  • Mind mapping of associations with the experience of the leisure activity.  Key words and connections; priorities and emphasis about the experience; potentially factors impacting the experience. This could include diagrams and pictures to describe the experience in the young person’s own way.  Information may provide insight into the researcher’s observations.
  • Story telling or metaphoring the experience where the young person talks about the experience as being like something else. For instance, describing the experience like a favourite film or computer game which may reveal further insights or clarify the meaning of other data.

These examples show:

  • Different sources of information can provide different insights
  • Different researchers/coresearchers and research participants can use a combination of different methods of data collection which suite their interests and circumstances
  • Creative approaches can encourage people (young people and adults) to think more broadly about topics; rather than in ways we have become accustomed to think resulting in similar information we have always generated
  • Collecting information from different sources enables researchers to build in-depth and rich descriptions of experiences and feelings
  • In qualitative research – research which is not simply about measuring and counting data – information to answer research questions is generated through discussion and examining the data for its meaning and relevance.
The combining of multiple data collection methods has been used very successfully in a number of research approaches including:

The Mosaic Approach

The Mosaic approach, developed by Alison Clark and Peter Moss for use with young children in early years settings, brings together a wide range of methods and tools, which can be used in combination to gain an understanding of children’s views and experiences of their environments (Clark and Moss, 2011). It recognises that some tools will be more suitable to use with individual children than others but assumes that all children’s views and experiences are valuable. Examples of tools used within this approach include observation, interviews and child-led tours of their environment, capturing images using a digital camera and mapping activities. Taking pictures and creating maps often involve children in a lot of talking and these activities are as much about a ‘vehicle for listening’ as they are about an end result. Children are in charge of the tours and are also in charge of reviewing the images they capture, deciding which ones to display and share with others. The advantages of this approach include building children’s skills and confidence, as well as giving adults insight into children’s perspectives, whilst the challenges include interpreting and representing the varied data gathered.


“Photovoice is a process by which people can identify, represent, and enhance their community through a specific photographic technique. As a practice based in the production of knowledge, photovoice has three main goals: (1) to enable people to record and reflect their community’s strengths and concerns, (2) to promote critical dialogue and knowledge about important issues through large and small group discussions of photographs, and (3) to reach policy makers” (Wang and Burris, 1997, p.369)

Our Story

GO TO : Our Story in the resources section for information about accessing a free download of this software and ways to use it

Audio Diary Recording

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