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December 17, 2014 / C H Thompson

Qualitative sources

Qualitative data is generated by interpretivist research methods. These methods generate data such as in-depth insights into respondents thoughts and feeling along with the meanings they give to events (how they interpret events – hence the term interpretivism).

Interpretivist primary methods include:

  • participant and non-participant observations
  • open-ended questionnaires
  • informal or unstructured interviews

Interpretivist secondary methods include:

  • diary entries
  • Facebook entries;
  • letters and other personal accounts
  • newspapers,
  • novels
  • police records,
  • government reports;
  • school records;
  • parish registers
  • content analysis

The above methods generate qualitative data and secondary qualitative sources have their own unique strengths. The reason some sociologists prefer qualitative data is it gives an account of how people see the world (interpretivists’ argue the structural nature of positivism imposes the sociologists view about what is or isn’t important on the respondent, this is because for example structured interviews are created by sociologists views on what are the important questions which need answering).

Interpretivists point out open interviews allow the respondent to talk about what they feel is important to be discussing and so they argue their data is more richer and more appropriate for studying the social world than positivist methods.


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