Primary Data Collection

The past few months we have been focused on not only developing our theoretical framework for our article, as I discussed in previous blog entries, but also on collecting primary data. As our research is focused on Alternative Spring Break trips, understanding the application and preparation process for an Alternative Spring Break is extremely important. Additionally, interviewing student participants also provides us with a great deal of material to analyze the Alternative Spring Break experience.


We were able to find two comparable schools in size and location and access their applications for the Alternative Spring Break trip. In our case, it is quite amazing how much you can learn about a program simply based upon the very bare details of how it is advertised, the costs and expenses associated with it, and the caliber of the application. We have found that all of these factors create a very different desired experience for the individual student and thus attracts different people and shapes their experience in a different way. Analyzing these applications has proven to be very useful for our research. However, we acknowledged quite early on that more qualitative data would be necessary to strengthen our argument and analysis.


As such, I have been observing the preparation of an Alternative Spring Break program and analyzing it in the context of our theoretical framework. Additionally, I am currently in the process of interviewing student participants and faculty coordinators for an Alternative Spring Break that happened this year. I have been struggling with drafting my interview questions and Dr. Emily Welty has been an immense help in the process. For our last meeting together we both prepared questions we thought would be good for the interview. After a short lesson on what types of questions are good for qualitative research gathering, I ensured that my questions were not too specific, still focused on our research, but also not pointed to lead the interviewee in a certain direction.


With a bit of reflexivity and thinking about how to learn what I want to about students’ Alternative Spring Break experience, we finally achieved a base set of questions for interviews. However, Dr. Welty, who has extensive ethnographic and qualitative research experience has provided me with tips for interviews, reminding me that oftentimes the interview can drift from the basic questions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. As I gear up for my first interview this week, I am very excited and nervous! However, I think that my position as a student and peer will allow me to speak on a level with the student participants that someone with a higher degree might not be able to. I think that Dr. Welty and I have done a great job thus far in identifying each other’s strengths and applying those to our research project. I am very confident that the result of this research initiative will be interesting, critical, and a new contribution to the field of Peace and Justice Studies.

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