Sociology 1 - Studying Society - Qualitative methods

Revision cards for Qualitative methods, hope this helps! :]

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Qualitative methods

Qualitative methods produce results in the form of words, quotations and detailed descriptions.

Unstructured Interviews:

This is like a guided conversation. The interviewer may start off with some prompts for questions, but new ones can spawn off the answers received.

Participant Observation:

This is where a researcher joins a group and takes part in its daily activities to study it. This can be carried out overtly (the researchees know about the research done on them) or covertly (the researcher does the research undercover, without the knowledge of the researchees)

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Unstructured Interviews Advantages:

- The interview can explain misunderstood questions

- The interview can explore complex issues, as they can probe interviewees by asking them follow up questions etc..

- Interviewees can develop their answers in full detail

- They can give an in-depth and rich account of the topic being studied

- They provide a more valid or authentic picture of the topic being studied.

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Qualitative methods

Unstructured Interview Disadvantages:

- They are often more time consuming and expensive compared to the data collected

- The interviewer needs the skills to keep the conversation going and encourage interviewees to open up.

- The Hawthorne effect can come into play

- They are not easy to replicate, as the questions are not pre set. This means they are not necessarily reliable.

- Compared with surveys, fewer unstructured interviews can be carried out so the sample size is smaller. This makes it difficult to generalise from the sample to the wider population.

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Participate Observation (Overt) Advantages:

- The researcher can ask as many questions as they want, as they do not need to worry about 'blowing their cover'

- It means the researchees have given their consent to be studied, meaning there are no ethical issues


- It does not induce the Hawthorne effect

- The information you collect is much more valid

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Participant Observation (Overt) Disadvantages:

- It can induce the Hawthorne effect, which can lead to researchees changing their behaviour

- You information you get may not be valid, because of the possible Hawthorne effect


- There are ethical issues involved, as you are not gaining consent from those being studied

- You may not be able to ask too many questions, as you may risk 'blowing your cover'

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