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