Mobile Phones in Data Collection: A Systematic Review

Mobile Phones in Data Collection: A Systematic Review

Füsun Şahin (University at Albany, SUNY,State University of New York at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY, United States) and Zheng Yan (University at Albany, SUNY, State University of New York at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY, United States)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/ijcbpl.2013070106
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Mobile phones are increasingly popular tools not only for daily use but also for research purposes. The authors systematically searched related literature using mobile phones as a tool for data collection and found 171 publications consisting of review, empirical, methodological, and theoretical studies in various disciplines such as medicine, engineering, and education. After reviewing contributions of previous review studies, the authors presented a description of data collection process consisting of four steps and used these four steps as a framework to review the existing empirical literature. The authors then reviewed contributions of methodological and theoretical studies, and end with a summary of current practices of collecting mobile data. Current challenges and future directions were also mentioned.
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Literature Search Strategies

The search for relevant literature was conducted in three stages. First, electronic databases were searched for peer-reviewed journal articles, including theoretical, review, and empirical ones. Second, we used a “rolling- snowball” method to search more articles by manually checking references of journal articles identified in the first stage. Finally, we expanded our search by visiting websites of core journals and leading experts and by consulting with reference librarians and experts in the field.

Specifically, various phrases such as phone, cellular phones, cell phone, smart phone, mobile phone, IPhone, data, data collection, collecting data, and their different combinations were searched in keyword, title, or abstract of an article. Particular databases used were: PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, Applied Science and Technology, Communication, Computers and Applied Sciences Complete, Education Full Text, Education Research Complete, Educational Administration Abstracts, ERIC, Film and Television Literature Index, Health Source, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, Social Sciences Full Text, Academic Search Complete, Library Information Science and Technology, Medline, Primary Search, and Professional Development Collection.

Exclusion and Inclusion Criteria

We used four criteria for exclusion. First, studies using mobile phones as an intervention medium without collecting data were eliminated since it is not the focus of this study. Second, studies related to both collecting data about cell phone usage and developing cell phone software were also excluded. Third, studies using personal digital assistants (PDA) as the mobile data collection tool were excluded because PDAs do not have the function of a regular phone. Fourth, studies that examined general phones or landline phones were excluded, while we did not exclude studies dealing with both landline and mobile phones so that we might compare these two tools in data collection.

We employed inclusion criteria based on language and participants. First, studies published only in English from various disciplines were included. Second, studies were included regardless of either collecting data from human participants or retrieved data from a database without any human interaction. Note that most articles found were published after 2000, although we did not use the publication year for either inclusion or exclusion.

On the basis of the criteria specified above, as of April of 2013, 171 relevant articles were found in four broad categories: (a) review, (b) empirical (c) methodological, and (d) theoretical. These categories were created depending on the aims of article to better identify literature-integrative, empirical, methodological, or theoretical contributions of each article. Articles reviewing multiple empirical studies or multiple research cases were considered as review articles. We found 26 review articles as a result of our literature search. An article aiming at presenting an empirical study that reported collecting data with mobile phones was coded as an empirical study. We found 115 empirical studies (see the references for examples). Articles that aimed at evaluating the use of mobile phones as a methodological method for data collection were considered as methodological articles. We identified 27 methodological articles (see References section for details). Lastly, articles aiming at narrating general mobile data collection process and discussing general concerns were categorized as theoretical articles. We found three theoretical articles (Berg & Modi, 2010; Mourão & Okada, 2010; Shilton, 2009).


Synthesized Knowledge Of Using Mobile Phones To Collect Data

The published review articles present synthesized knowledge of using mobile phones to collect data. Among the 26 reviews articles we found (see References for citation details), four of them were not tied to any discipline (Donner, 2008; Kwok, 2009; Muthiah, Prashant, and Jhunjhunwala, 2012, & Shilton, 2012) and 22 were tied to various specific disciplines.

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