The Wonderful World of Qualitative Analysis

As a sociologist we have many options for how we want to conduct our research and what method we want to use. One option is qualitative research which has many subcategories. Qualitative research focuses on words rather than the collection of data and numbers. Like any research, qualitative research starts with a general research question and proceeds from there. Shown is a model for the flow of qualitative research:

There are also many sampling techniques within qualitative research. One form is theoretical sampling, generic purposive sampling, snowball sampling. Theoretical sampling is a process in which you are going to generate theory from the data you have collected. Generic purposive sampling takes places when participants are chosen with a purpose in mind. Snowball sampling is used when a researcher starts off with a small group of people and that group of people recruits others to participate in the study.

A few of the options for qualitative research include participant observation, ethnography, interviews, focus groups, and content analysis. Participant observation is when the researcher immerses themselves into the social setting in which they are trying to study. They do this for an extended period of time and observe behavior and conversations between people.

While participant observation and ethnography are similar methods of research, they are slightly different from each other.  The role of an ethnographer goes past that of someone conducting participant observation work. Ethnography goes beyond just the method and also includes the written product of the research. An ethnography will also include the use of non-observational methods such as interviewing, and sampling combined with observational methods. Photos and videos have also made their way into ethnographic studies.

Interviews take place when the researcher asks a series of questions with the interviewee. This method works well when trying to gain in-depth information about people’s thoughts feelings, opinions and personal experiences. In a focus group, a group of people are brought together in a room to engage in a discussion of a topic. Another form of research is content analysis, which looks at documents and texts and it seeks to quantify this data into categories.

When conducting research, we also have to take into consideration the idea of power and authority. From a feminist perspective there is three way that the researchers have power. The first way is that the researcher has more power and control than the researched. The second way is that the researcher has power over how the findings are interpreted. The third that is often researchers tend to have more social power in general.


Questions for consideration:

  1. What method/methods do you think are best for the research that we are conducting within Washington Park?
  2. Which sampling technique do you think will be the best option for our research?
  3. What steps can we take to be conscious of our power as researchers during this process?



  • Suprasanna Aryal

    “What method/methods do you think are best for the research that we are conducting within Washington Park?”

    Ethnography is the best method for our research in Washington Park. Besides observing the community, we already have had some series of interactions, interviews and photography as well as videography for our data, all being components of ethnography.

  • Nikolle

    I think that we could apply any form of sampling to Washington Park. However, I think snowball sampling might be the best technique for this project. I think the main focus of building this garden is to have it grow and reach many people. By using snowball sampling we can sample from the people who are already involved in the garden and then have them recruit people and share their feelings on the garden with others. By using snowball sampling we can not only get the opinions from the people involved but we can also recruit more people to get involved with the garden.

    • Hayley Winker

      I agree that snowball sampling would be a good method for this community. We have seen that this is a tight knit community and that word of mouth is powerful here and would allow for a variety of members from the community to get involved.

  • liaguir

    “What steps can we take to be conscious of our power as researchers during this process?”

    There are so many things to consider when doing research behind a computer and or out in the field. When you’re looking into your topic, you always have to consider other perspectives towards this topic, not just what you’re specifically looking for. Meaning, what do others think of it? What impacts, causes this topic to be what it is today? How is it presented in our society? Etc…
    Not only that but you always have to think about your role in this topic if you were to be out in the field either observing or interviewing people. Always be aware of your biases (your ideas), because not everyone will agree with you. Also, be mindful of your biases because that may have some sort of influence on your research.

  • Arieanna Morris

    One way I believe we are conscious of our power is by reminding ourselves and others that we are a partner in the Washington Park community and someone else is leading the project. It is important that the Washington Park community holds the power and not us, for we are merely a tool and resource. At the same time, as researchers, we must also learn and study new techniques to work on our public sociology. The best we can do is be conscious, communicate, and educate ourselves about what we are doing in the community.

    • Hayley Winker

      I like what you said about remembering that we are merely a partner in this project and that is important to remember that the Washington Park community are the ones that should be holding the power. This project affects them the most, so it is important that they have the power and control over this project and that we are just a resource to help them.

  • Breanne Burton

    “What steps can we take to be conscious of our power as researchers during this process?”

    The way in which we can be more conscious is to be aware of our own biases and privileges, because as we know research cannot possibly be objective because we are subjective beings, but we should try to make it as objective as possible. Another way is to make sure that we are all aware (like Arieanna said above) that we are partners with Washington Park. We are here to help uplift voices and resources and to not speak for anyone. The residents of Washington Park need to be centered around this project and garden, this impacts their lives and we need to be aware that we are partners in this and not in charge.

  • Rachel Green

    I also think that ethnography is the best method for the research we are conducting with the Tiny Children’s Garden. This qualitative methodology allows us to systematically study the culture of Washington Park . Studying the culture is an important component to the project because we want to be able to incorporate things into the garden that the community needs, relevant to it’s culture. I think this method allows us as researchers to make sure the communities culture is taken into account and make sure the needs of the community are met, as we use the research as inspiration for the components of the garden.

  • Amy Yates

    I think that mixed methods is the best approach to working with Washington Park. Participant observation and ethnography will show the residents that we are serious about working with the residents and helping them with what they want, not just what we think they need. Interviews are also important because this will give us a deeper understanding of what the residents want and expect so that we don’t deepen the divide between the university and the community.
    We can be conscious of role as researchers by really listening to what the residents want. We, as researchers, need to be conscious of our language also, making sure that we are using language that is inclusive and makes the residents confident that they are being heard.

  • Danielle Kulina

    I think the snowball sampling would be a great research tool for us. I think this whole garden in general is becoming more aware by “word of mouth”. Someone finding out and telling others about it. The Washington Park community seems to be very close with each other and this would be a great opportunity to use their closeness to gain some more information about the community and their ideas and view about the garden. I do think though, we could even benefit from a few types of research. For example, the interviews taken during the first clean up seemed to really help us get an understanding of how the community felt about the start of the garden.

  • Razan Mansour M

    I also think that snowballing sampling is the best method to collect data but only in the present time since we are only meeting some of the community members participating in the garden. So snowballing sampling is a great way to start with to get to know people in the community and also let them know us and spread the word. On the other hand, there are some limitations we need to put in mind for this specific method. First, our samples will not be random since we are picking the people to ask. Second, Bias can be presented if we accidentally lean towards a specific group of people and leaving other groups and that could end up with data that will not represent the whole community.