Article

Qualitative Methods in Sociological Research

Jeff Sallaz

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0043
Qualitative Methods in Sociological Research

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Qualitative research methods have a long and distinguished history within sociology. They trace their roots back to Max Weber’s call for an interpretive understanding of action. Today, qualitative sociology encompasses a variety of specific procedures for collecting data, ranging from life history interviews to direct observation of social interaction to embedded participant observation. In all of these cases, the social scientist directly interacts with those whom he or she is studying. The social scientist attempts to see the world from their perspective and to interpret their practices in a meaningful way. In fact, scholars such as Howard Becker and Clifford Geertz have argued that the ultimate test of the validity of a qualitative research study is whether it produces an account of social action that would make sense to the actors themselves. As this would imply, the foundational logic underlying qualitative studies differs from that of variable-oriented quantitative research. The latter measures particular properties of social phenomena and then uses statistical models to determine patterns of association among these properties, or variables. Because these models require a larger number of cases to establish statistically significant associations, quantitative researchers necessarily must sacrifice depth for breadth. Qualitative researchers, in contrast, are comfortable working with a small number of cases, or even a single case. They have at their disposal a variety of assumptions, theories, and methods to produce rich accounts of social life. In addition, qualitative research can offer unique insight into the relationship between microsocial and macrosocial worlds and even global forces.

Article.  6104 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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