qualitative research techniques
qualitative research techniquesany research in which sociologists rely on their skills as empathic interviewer or observer to collect unique data about the problem they are investigating. Researchers may have a list of topics they will discuss with their informants in an unstructured way (a focused interview schedule or aide-mémoire) or may seek to uncover the informant's own ‘narrative’ or experience of the topic. Similarly, observation techniques may be more or less qualitative, the most qualitative being full PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION. These methods contrast with QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH TECHNIQUES where reliance is placed on the research instrument through which measurement is made, i.e. the structured questionnaire, the structured observation, or the experiment.
There is a strong emphasis on qualitative methods in ETHNOMETHODOLOGY and ETHNOGRAPHY. The data produced is considered to be ‘rich’ in detail and closer to the informant's perceived world while quantitative methods may lead to an impoverishment of data. Any classification of qualitative data can only be at the nominal level (see CRITERIA AND LEVELS OF MEASUREMENT). However, even among research teams fully committed to structured quantitative methods, qualitative methods are often used in the initial stages of an investigation when all aspects of survey design need to be assessed and information gained qualitatively is then used to produce the structured research instrument. see also RESEARCH METHODS.