Digital Research and COVID-19 An Argument for using both Primary and Qualitative Secondary Data in a Hong Kong Ethnography

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Ann Gillian Chu


This paper addresses the challenges of conducting theological ethnographic fieldwork during COVID-19, and proposes a solution of incorporating qualitative secondary data from online databases. The author draws from her experience in conducting her doctoral research in Hong Kong to explore the issues of whether ethnographic fieldwork has to be in a physical space, and how qualitative secondary data from online databases can be used. The study employs a methodology in which lived theology informs and shapes written theology. This paper asks whether being physically present in a field site is still necessary for conducting ethnographic fieldwork, since the pandemic has shifted much of human interactions online. The author argues that physically being in a field site is still necessary to build rapport with the community. This paper also considers the use of existing qualitative secondary data in conducting ethnographic field research. The author sees using qualitative secondary data as more than a way to overcome obstacles set by pandemic restrictions. Researchers who can access under-used data sets can triangulate with their primary data to give stronger support to their arguments.

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