SOCB05 – Lecture 9 – July 11 2013
Qualitative Research Methods
* Includes notes from guest lecturer Salina Abji
Why Qualitative Field Research?
Social research “right where it happens”
Deeper understanding of social phenomena
o Probing social life in its natural habitat
o Not artificial like experiments are.
o Not armchair philosophy (when you judge something
from afar, without context and evaluate it from your
own knowledge about things)
Good to study social processes over time as they happen,
rather than reconstructing them in the future.
Data collecting AND theory gathering
Gathering research is demanding and deliberate. Requires
sensitivity, understanding, and respect. Involves a lot of
Ethnography or Participant Observation
Involves various theoretical techniques and applications.
Rooted in naturalism: observing events and people in a
Aim for deep understanding of someone’s/community’s way
o Direct first hand observation
o Note taking
Dude You’re a Fag
Ethnography is used in business and marketing. Not just sociology and
Case Study Design
A case study is a focused, detailed investigation of a single
instance of social phenomenon.
Not very common in qualitative field work
Not a mode of observation but a way to carry out research
o Instead of a method for gathering data, it is a type of
research design Most case studies offer rich and detailed data about that case.
Not trying to be representative.
When is a case study appropriate?
With a unique and interesting story
When you want to provide context.
Can take a very long time
Sometimes lack scientific rigour
Theoretical Frameworks in Field Research
Extended Case Method
o Application of reflexive science to ethnography, with 3
goals in mind:
Extract the general from the unique
Move from micro to macro
Connect present to the past in anticipation of the
o Completed by building on pre-existing theory
o Allows sociologists to inform their field work with a pre-
existing theory that is helpful when trying to combat
o Not a theory that is about collecting knowledge for
knowledge sake. It is to fix problems and offer
o Derives theory from analysing patterns and themes
discovered through observational data
o An inductive type of research.
o Go into the field to do research, then go home and do
codin and data analysis, then go back to do more
research, then go home, etc. etc.
o Does not begin with preconceived ideas about the topic
o Criticised for not being structured enough.
Why conduct field research on social movements?
What it can involve:
o Observing a public events.
Example: protests, marches, and forums.
o Participating in social justice work Example: Grassroots organizing, volunteering.
o Working with communities: sharing your research,
contributing your skills, and collaborating.