Qualitative Data Collection
A semi-structured interview was chosen as the method for collecting data, because this tool is “flexible and likely to promote fruitful reflection by the participants” (Mill 2001, p. 385). It was hoped that the interviews would provide further understanding of the complex nature of Chinese international students’ stressors and help-seeking beliefs and behaviors.
An interview is an efficient way of collecting information. This is particularly true when researchers are interested in “understanding the perceptions of participants, or learning how participants come to attach certain meanings to phenomena or events” (Berg 1989, p. 19). The face-to-face, in-depth, semi-structured interview in this study provided the researcher efficient access to the complex interconnections of personal perceptions. People’s emotions and experiences can be more easily assessed in face-to-face interviews.
Selection of participants was in two stages. First, Chinese students were invited to participate in this university-approved project through ads placed on the bulletin board of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association. Students were sent a letter explaining the nature of research, the length of the interview, a statement about confidentiality, and an invitation to students interested in being interviewed to contact the researchers either by e-mail or by phone. Ten students contacted the researchers by e-mail. A second source of interviewees were obtained by asking three student friends and colleagues to participate in the study and to recruit other students. An additional six students were selected and reached through the three personal acquaintances. The recruitment of the sample was not done in a uniform way because the researchers used mixed purposeful sampling, combining various purposeful sampling methods for the current study. Purposive sampling offers researchers a degree of control. With purposive sampling, researchers deliberately seek to include “outliers” conventionally discounted in quantitative approaches. Two sampling methods were mainly employed in the current study: criterion sampling and snowball sampling (Morrow and Smith 2000).
Nineteen mainland Chinese students majoring in different departments of ASU were interviewed, using a semi-structured interview format. Chapter 6 provides brief descriptions of each of the 19 subjects.