Intermediate Qualitative Research Methods
Qualitative research methods span a variety of approaches to data collection influenced by the common desire to assemble in-depth accounts of the lived human experience. For instance, sociologists have studied a full spectrum of social groups and social life using qualitative methods, including athletes, criminals, delinquents and ‘deviants’, doctors and nurses, and victims of illness, tragedy and other forms of human suffering. What such studies share in common is the desire to undertake what the groundbreaking Chicago School scholars of the early twentieth century called ‘appreciative’ research, thus producing what anthropologist Clifford Geertz termed ‘thick description’ -- that is, richly accurate portrayals that seek to understand and bring to life the social group in question. In this way, qualitative methods are often used by sociologists in the exploration of how significance is attributed to everyday life within social groups, and how members articulate social experiences through such things as face-to-face interaction, language, symbols, images and actions. Of equal concern to qualitative sociologists are the processes by which power and forms of social stratification (such as age, status, gender and race) are embedded within social interactions. This course encourages students to learn and practically implement a range of qualitative methods to help ‘appreciate’ and ‘thickly describe’ aspects of culture and society.