Homework B: Methodology

To learn about media use among young refugees, I will need to take one of two approaches: interviews or a survey. In this blog post I will outline what each of these two approaches would look like and then weight the benefits and limitations of each one. I will also consider a third, possibly supplementary, approach of tracking how refugees use their smartphones in the form of analyzing data usage or a time tracking app.

I have contact with young refugees through my job at a language school teaching German as a foreign language; however, as they are all under the age of 18, it may be difficult to interview them simply because of ethical considerations. This will further be explored in Homework C – timetable and logistics.

Possible Approach 1: Interviews

One possible approach would be to conduct semi-structured interviews with the refugees on their media use. I would use a semi-structured approach because I could develop a list of interview questions based on information I find in the literature and in preliminary research, but would also have the freedom to ask follow-up or clarifying questions. Another benefit would be it would allow interviewees more opportunities to elaborate on confusing or complex answers, such as change over time (“I moved to a different place and my new house does not have a TV so I no longer have access to a TV.”) Perhaps most useful, it would allow the interviewer to explore the question of why certain media are preferred over others.


  • Would yield more in-depth information, especially regarding my second sub-question: why certain media are preferred over others
  • Allows for more complicated answers
  • More freedom to explore new topics/reasons the researcher had not thought of
  • A smaller sample size would make it easier to get an adequate number of participants


  • A translator would be needed. As none of the refugees (to my knowledge) speak fluent enough English or German to participate in an interview, it would be best if they did the interview in their native language – most likely Farsi. This is a huge limitation, since it is very easy for errors in translation to occur, and it will be difficult to find a translator willing to do the time-consuming work of transcribing and translating interviews for free. This will be explored further in Homework C.
  • Related to the language barrier, I would not be able to participate in the interview myself (unless we did a cumbersome three-person interview in which the translator translated my questions and the interviewee’s answers immediately, in which case I would need a Dolmetscher not an Übersetzer) so I would have to trust my translator’s judgement to ask follow-up questions and possibly schedule follow-up interviews, which could be logistically challenging.
  • A smaller sample size would mean it is harder to generalize my results, which may make it difficult to answer my first sub-question: what media/technology do they have access to. In other words, it is fairly meaningless to conclude something like “67% of young refugees do not have access to a TV” if my sample size were six.

Possible Approach 2: Surveys

I could develop a qualitative survey, basing the questions on what results I expect to find from previous studies and questions to answer my research question. The questions would be entirely or primarily categorical, with instructions to “check all that apply.” Again, due to the language barrier, the language of the survey would have to be Farsi, and possibly include a version in Pashto if some of the refugees speak that language (I’m not personally aware of any who do). It could possibly include some open-ended or short answer questions, such as an “other” category with a space to write in an answer (this could be useful for finding out about technology I hadn’t thought of or apps I’m not familiar with) and “why” questions (“why do you prefer this media platform the most? Explain.”)


  • Would be an efficient way to answer my main research question (“what media do you use”) and first sub-question (“what media technology do you have access to”)
  • Would be logistically easier to implement from a language perspective than translating interviews
  • Larger sample size = more generalizable results


  • Impossible to eliminate possible translation errors since I don’t know Farsi
  • No possibility for clarifying questions
  • Would require a larger sample size (could be difficult if parent/guardian permission is needed for minors to participate in this study)
  • Results would be less in-depth and it would be harder to answer the “why” as to what media they use or like the most

Possible Approach 3: Smartphone Analytics

From my own observations and informal discussions with my students, I know that virtually all of them own smartphones and use them near-constantly. There are various ways for smartphones to track what they are being used for. The most simple one is data usage, a built-in feature on most if not all smartphones showing how much data has gone to which applications and programs in a specified window of time. There are probably also apps that can track how much time is spent doing which activities on a smartphone.

This would probably not be a very good approach on its own as most subjects will probably consume media from other sources than just their phones, but could be a good supplementary or follow-up approach if my findings confirm that smartphones are a major source of media for young refugees. (Another option is to change my research question to only focus on smartphones.)


  • Language barrier would be the least problematic here
  • I would have access to trustworthy quantitative data that could be worked with using statistical analysis
  • Easy; gathering data would be least time-consuming
  • Absence of response bias and/or memory lapses (as can occur in interviews/surveys)


  • Data usage: would not include apps used while phone was connected to Wi-Fi; some apps use far more data in the same amount of time than others (this could be controlled for); not all apps/activities use data (some don’t require an internet connection)
  • Privacy concerns when looking at someone else’s phone (would have to get permission)
  • Would only give results regarding smartphone use and not other types of media (which is why this would be good to combine with another approach)
  • Does not answer my research question or sub-questions (unless, as stated, I were to change those to only reflect smartphone use)
Homework B: Methodology

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