How we understand and define qualitative data is changing, with implications not only for the techniques of data analysis, but also how data are collected. New devices, technologies and online spaces open up new ways for researchers to approach and collect images, moving images, text and talk. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection systematically explores the approaches, techniques, debates and new frontiers for creating, collecting and producing qualitative data. Bringing together contributions from internationally leading scholars in the field, the handbook offers a state-of-the-art look at key themes across six thematic parts: Part I Charting the Routes Part II Concepts, Contexts, Basics Part III Types of Data and How to Collect Them Part IV Digital and Internet Data Part V Triangulation and Mixed Methods Part VI Collecting Data in Specific Populations

Collecting Qualitative Data: A Realist Approach

Joseph A. Maxwell


This chapter considers qualitative data collection from the perspective of realism, a philosophical position that has gained significant attention in discussions of research and evaluation methods (e.g. Clark, 2008; Hammersley, 1992, 1998, 2008, 2009; Maxwell, 1990a, 1990b, 1992, 2012a, 2012b; Madill, 2008; Pawson, 2006; Pawson and Tilley, 1997; Sayer, 1992). I argue that this position has important implications for qualitative research, including qualitative data collection. In this chapter, I provide a brief introduction to realism, and then discuss how this approach can inform the theory and practice of qualitative data collection.

What is realism?

There are many varieties of realism across the philosophical landscape. In this chapter, I focus on what is ...

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