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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Qualitative methods

The qualitative approach has been known as the "first legacy" of social science research (Hagan, 2012, p.16).  Qualitative methods do not operationalize data for numerical (or objective) comparison, and rely on interpretive (or subjective) analysis. Tewksbury lists the methods of  qualitative methods of data collection as follows:
  interviews with individuals
  observations of people, places and actions/interactions
  immersion in settings so as to understand the what, how, when and where and how of social structure and action/interaction
  the analysis of media (written, spoken, drawn,etc.) content
  guided conversations with groups of individuals (focus groups)  (2009, p. 49).

Hagan would define the second and third listed methods as "participative observation", in which a group is studied by "observing its activities and, to varying degrees, participating in its activities" (2012, p. 211).  In addition, Hagan would consider the other methods as "case studies", as they would be examples of "studies of one or a few illustrative cases" (2012, p. 231).  Hagan gives examples of other methods such as oral histories (a form of interview) that could be considered as case studies, and notes that there is not a scientific consensus as to which types of study can be considered as case studies (2012, p. 231).
An additional method of qualitative data collection is the survey.  Jansen contends that the "qualitative survey is the study of diversity (not distribution) in a population" (2010, para. 6), and notes that the quantitative use of the survey is to describe objective characteristics of a population such as prevalence rates (2010, para. 5).
From these methods I would use the case study primarily in my own project. I am limited to the analysis of written media;  government studies, academic research, autobiographies.  These written accounts give the reasoning and justifications of conducting the operations, the scope and specific activities of such operations, and the results of the operations.  I could potentially arrange interviews with participants of COINTELPRO operations, or focus groups with the same, but that is outside the range of my resources.
If I were able to plan and execute interviews, focus groups, or surveys, I would design questions that would illuminate whether there were differences in the WHITE HATE and NEW LEFT programs, and what were the reasons for such differences.  I would also ask questions that might expose unplanned or unintended differences.
Some possible questions would include  (many of these questions could be asked again transposing the orientation, WHITE HATE/NEW LEFT):
  "Did you have a personal bias against members of the Ku Klux Klan?"
  "Did national headquarters request more operations against NEW LEFT targets than WHITE HATE targets when both programs were concurrent?"
  "Was your SAC ever punished for not meeting a quota of actions against NEW LEFT targets?"
  "Did your SAC ever discuss a priority for WHITE HATE targets?"
  "Did you ever participate in actions against NEW LEFT targets you felt were unjustified?"

Hagan, F. E. (2012). Essentials of research methods in criminal justice and criminology (3rd ed). Boston: Prentice Hall.

Tewksbury, R. (2009). Qualitative versus quantitative methods: Understanding why qualitative methods are superior for criminology and criminal justice. Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Criminology, 1(1), 38–58.

Jansen, H. (2010). The logic of qualitative survey research and its position in the field of social research methods.  Forum: Qualitative Social Research, [S.l.], v. 11, n. 2.  Retrieved August 6, 2015 from http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1450/2946

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