Memoing and Data collection

Note taking
Taking notes when conducting interviews

The collection of data is often a complex affair which really tests the mettle of any budding researcher. There are various mechanisms which help the researcher in collecting data in a comprehensive and logical manner. One of the most popular methods of data collection within a qualitative environment is the Interview. However many qualitative researchers would argue that this is not enough, to much data gets lost!

During an Interview a researcher is constantly observing, recording, making mental notes and trying to make sure they don’t miss anything. This is an exhausting process which requires a large amount of mental fortitude and patience. So while this process is going on there is scope to collect additional data, this is where methods such as “memoing” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 69) really play a big part in giving contextual depth to your interview data.

Memoing (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 69) would take place during the interview, its not a process or a method that happens after the interview. The approach is classed as highly accurate or contemporaneous if you will. The below diagram outlines this parallel approach:

Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 10.20.34
Memoing approach


Memoing as an approach allows the researcher during an interview to collect additional data about what the researcher heard, saw, experienced and thought in the course of collecting and reflecting on the process. So this could be for example a knowing glance, a crossing of the arms, maybe even a smirk or a grin, elements that would not be picked up by the tape recorder but add contextual depth to the data.

So why would a researcher need this? Cant they take mental notes? Well in the view of  Groenwald (2004) and Cresswell (2011) who both argue that researchers are easily absorbed in the in-depth interview process and on many occasions may fail to accurately reflect on what is happening in front of their eyes, memoing allows that reflection to take place within the context of the interviews and allows for the collection of non-standard data such as gestures, facial expressions, and other non-verbal forms of expression.


Groenewald, T., 2004. A phenomenological research design illustrated.

Creswell, J.W., 2011. Educational Research: Planning, Conducting, and Evaluating Quantitative and Qualitative Research. Fourth., Pearson.

Miles, M.B. & Huberman, A.M., 1994. Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook, Sage.

Beddall-Hill, N., Jabbar, A. & Shehri, S., 2011. Social Mobile Devices as Tools for Qualitative Research in Education: iPhones and iPads in Ethnography, Interviewing, and Design-Based Research. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 7(1), pp.67–89. Available at:

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This post was uploaded by Dr Abdul Jabbar a senior lecturer at the University of Huddersfield.


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