Children in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Child-Only Cases with Relative Caregivers. 4.1.3 Data Collection


The study team used multiple data sources and data collection approaches in a triangulated design to increase confidence in findings. Table 4-1 summarizes the data collection approaches, data sources, and the strengths and weaknesses associated with each.

Table 4-1.
Data Collection Approaches
Data Collection Method Data Source Respondent/Material Potential Strengths/Weaknesses
Individual Discussions State personnel
  • TANF agency leader(s)
  • Child welfare agency leader(s)
  • Aging agency leader(s)
  • Targeted--focuses on topic of study
  • Insightful--provides perceived causal inferences

Response bias

  • Incomplete knowledge and recollection
  • Reflexivity--respondent expresses what interviewer wants to hear
Group Discussion County personnel
  • Case workers in two counties
Record Abstraction
Document Review
County records

State records

County records

  • Randomly selected record review in one county per state
  • TANF reports
  • Organization charts
  • Budget summaries
  • TANF agency plans
  • TANF service manuals
  • Case management information system elements
  • Organizational charts
  • Budget summaries
  • Stable--repeated review
  • Unobtrusive--exist prior to study
  • Broad coverage


  • Retrievability--difficult
  • Reporting bias--reflects author bias
  • Access--may be dated or unavailable
Focus Group County clients
  • Relative caregivers in one county per state
  • Target focus
  • Input from key stakeholders


  • Bias due to participation

The study team developed individual and group discussion guides, templates for document review, and record abstraction guides based on findings from the comprehensive literature synthesis and the secondary data analysis. Researchers structured discussion guides to ensure consistent data collection while allowing researchers enough flexibility to tailor discussions to respondents' expertise and pursue emerging ideas. RTI's Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects approved all data collection materials and procedures prior to data collection.

The study staff conducted on-site data collection between October and December 2003. Two-person teams shared responsibility for leading discussions, abstracting data, and taking notes using topically organized forms. The study team held debriefing meetings after each site visit to review findings and identify any needed follow-up or modifications to procedures.

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