Research Methods

Show & Tell Sessions

COBALT has devised several novel approaches to the principle of focus groups for gathering qualitative data. One of these is the show and tell session, which is designed to minimise negative feedback towards Assistive Technologies. Participants are invited to bring in examples of their own technological items that they ‘love’ and also those that they have ‘abandoned’. The participants are encouraged to introduce their items to the group and to discuss their feelings about them. The COBALT research team reason that this format provides each participant with an equal opportunity to discuss their items and to examine in detail the process of adoption and abandonment. So this approach also gives more reserved participants a voice within the group.

Technology Interaction Session

A second approach developed by COBALT is the Technology Interaction Session. This session is designed to focus on more interactive learning methods, so participants are not put off by seemingly confusing and difficult to use pieces of technology. Participants are split into pairs or small groups and asked to select an ALT from a range provided by the researchers including small healthy living devices such as blood pressure monitors, a body fat monitor and a pedometer. These are boxed ‘as new’ and participants are then asked in their pairs/small groups to learn how they work, then explain to the rest of the group how they found them. The COBALT research team reason that this format provides participants with a relaxed and supportive environment within which the value and usage issues of new technologies can be discussed.

To gather data with these approaches two studies have been conducted, each using 15 older volunteers, in Sheffield and St. Andrews.

The following pieces of
technology were pre-selected by the research team:

  • Tomtom one and Tomtom Start portable GPS Satellite Navigation systems
  • Reebok Credit Card pedometer
  • Two inch basic white Roche pedometer
  • Homedics Automatic Deluxe Blood Pressure monitor with supersize digits
  • Pulse Polar FT1 watch-style heart rate monitor
  • Nikon Coolpix L22 silver digital camera,
  • Tanita Interscan Body Composition monitor
  • Omron XBF306 Body Fat monitor

Qualitative interview

Qualitative interviews ask the participant to discuss topics in their own words. Such
interviews are usually semi-structured where the researcher facilitates discussion so as to
cover topics relevant to the research questions.

COBALT’s considered that home based interviews would be a way of gathering data on
questions such as:

  • What participants want in life and how ALT contributes to their goals
  • How participants change their behaviour to adopt ALT
  • The importance of their relationship with the health and social care professionals
  • The attitudes and behaviours of partners, friends, families and social networks.

As such, semi–structured interviews perhaps offer the best opportunity to cover research
questions such as ‘how older people become aware, choose, learn about, adopt and make
use of ALT’s.

Technology Tours

As aforementioned, some participants are naturally ‘quieter’, and may respond more readily to concrete devices than hypothetical vignettes. COBALT has therefore combined the semi-structured interview with a method called ‘technology tours’ an observational method (Blythe, 2002; Axelrod, 2009). These typically involve the researcher requesting to be shown around public areas of the home and being permitted to take pictures of technology. COBALT plans to adapt this method by asking participants to talk through a typical day and show how they use technology. The researchers will ask how participants came to choose and learn about the technology and will observe the range of devices, any adaptations and any social relationships that relate to technology.

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