I am a graduate student in education who recently had a child. I have devised a few plans/topics that would work for my thesis but I keep revisiting them because they require a lot of data collection in the field, something I am not sure I will be able to achieve with a young baby at home and no babysitter/daycare for now.

So here I am, trying to come up with various data collection methods that could work without having to be in the field:

  • Giving directions to a research assistant and paying them to do it for me
  • Interviews through Skype
  • Surveys
  • Self-reports
  • Document analysis

What would be other viable options that I haven’t listed?

  • 1
    Your advisor might have some ideas also... Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 21:02
  • @NateEldredge Of course, though I'm not sure I want to breach the topic of changing topics yet again until I'm fairly ready with a new proposal!
    – curious
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 21:51
  • @MaartenBuis: First sentence: "education" Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 23:34
  • I'm not too familiar with the research techniques in education. However, I think you need to be careful about your plan to use a research assistant as your "agent", if ever. It is a common feature in graduate studies that students collect their own data. That is to say, you can't outsource data collection. There are exceptions, of course, to this. All I'm saying is that it may not be allowed in your case.
    – user65587
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 9:55
  • A good answer would require knowing what the data you collect would about. Teachers? Students? The products of teachers' or students' work? Adminstrators? Facilities?
    – rolando2
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 20:01

2 Answers 2


Depending on your topic, consider working with an existing dataset. I highly doubt that would be frowned upon in an M.A. situation - you only have so much time to get things done!

I see you're in Ed Tech, so you have a lot to choose from. Most MOOCs provide open data you could work with (for example, see Harvard and MIT's Dataverse). The LAK conference is also an excellent resource for learning analytics datasets. Finally, there are also some governments that are providing open data pertaining to education, such as Queensland in AU.

But even if you can't find an existing dataset that provides the information you're looking for, the strategies you mentioned can all be used highly successfully. My own MSc thesis in Learning & Technology is one example. I designed a study where I combined an online survey with sentiment analysis to understand the role of personality in a set of online courses provided by large university. Never had to leave my laptop :)

  • I've seen other students do this and although that is something I prefered to avoid, you raise some very relevant points. I've also done research projects in the past year for which we have data that I could use but they are not my research interests so much... Maybe I should just come to terms with this :-)
    – curious
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 1:34


Written interviews. If journalists can do it, I don't see why you can't. There are some sub-options here. You can send a list of questions by email, let them respond, send follow-up questions, rinse and repeat; you can set up a chat session and save the transcript; you can supplement a written interview/conversation with phone calls to clarify key points.

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