Abstract: Direct Scribing As a Rigor-Promoting Technique: Centering Youth Voice throughout Data Collection and Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Direct Scribing As a Rigor-Promoting Technique: Centering Youth Voice throughout Data Collection and Analysis

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Encanto A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Jenna Powers, MSW, PhD Candidate, Research Assistant,, University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT
Background and Purpose: Direct scribing, an interview technique that enables the co-production of data and participant-informed analysis, is an under-utilized method in social work research. First introduced direct scribing as a tool for older youth in foster care to create and reflect on their self-narratives, direct scribing entails typing participants’ words verbatim during the interview, and participants editing and interpreting their self-narratives. Few studies have utilized this democratizing method since its inception. This paper examines an adaptation of direct scribing as a feasible and effective tool for promoting empowerment and enhancing methodological rigor.

This paper builds upon existing scholarship by further developing the data collection and analytical processes that may be used with direct scribing. Four key differences in the use of this methodology are notable: (1) Interviews were conducted virtually and utilized the videoconferencing platform’s shared screen function; (2) Interview transcripts were created using a hybrid adaption of direct scribing (i.e., transcribed audio recordings combined with direct scribing); (3) Youths’ interpretations of their stories were directly applied to the data analysis; and (4) While youth were the study’s core participants, alumni and staff stakeholders were also interviewed.

Methods: This paper is situated within a larger study examining foster youth participation within a state youth advisory board. Three categories of participants were included in the overall sample (N = 21): youth (n = 4), alumni (n = 5), and staff (n = 12). Alumni and staff stakeholders provided contextual data through one semi-structured interview. Youth, the study’s core participants, created self-narratives throughout two interviews. First interviews with youth were audio recorded and later transcribed verbatim. Second interviews consisted of youth editing and interpreting their narratives. Youths’ amendments to their initial narratives were coded as “elective youth edits” or “prompted youth edits.” Then, multiple coding cycles (i.e., In Vivo, Narrative, and Pattern Coding) were used to link the youth and contextual data while maintaining the centrality of youths’ expertise.

Results: The adapted direct scribing technique was found to strengthen data collection and analysis in multiple ways. Providing opportunities for youth to review and edit their transcripts enriched the data and ultimately deepened understanding of the youths’ narratives. This was further enhanced by youths’ interpretations of their narratives, which were directly applicable to the overall data analysis. This resulted in data being coded that would not have been without facilitating youths’ insights. Lastly, the integration of stakeholder data throughout the youth-centered analysis resulted in theoretical constructs that are simultaneously grounded in youths’ expertise and broader contextual explanations.

Conclusions and Implications: This paper demonstrates how an adaptation of direct scribing may be utilized to further promote rigor while remaining feasible. Direct scribing offers distinct mechanisms for addressing threats to trustworthiness in qualitative research. Co-constructing interview transcripts through direct scribing and audio recording may reduce the barriers innate in direct scribing while upholding its empowerment features. Further, infusing data analyses with youths’ voices captured through direct scribing, in addition to stakeholder expertise, may result in more fruitful and practical implications for social work practice.