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Qualitative Methods (Research Paper Sample)

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This paper examines the use of qualitative methods for the exploration of prejudice and discrimination in social psychology.

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Qualitative Methods
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Qualitative Methods
Qualitative research refers to the use of methods, which use language instead of numbers, and an interpretive, naturalistic approach to conduct various studies. Qualitative researches are mainly interested to know how people perceive the world, and their experience in different events. Qualitative research is the best approach to adopt when conducting research on prejudice and discrimination. Although social sciences normally differ on the definition of prejudice, most of them agree that prejudice entails prejudgment, normally negative about an individual or a certain group. As prevalently used in psychology, prejudice is not just a statement of belief or opinion, but also an attitude that entails feelings like dislike, contempt, or loathing. On the other hand, discrimination entails a certain behavior or actions, normally negative, towards a person or a group of people, specifically based on race, sex, or social class (Berg, 2001). This paper examines the use of qualitative methods for the exploration of prejudice and discrimination in social psychology.
The common known example of discrimination based on prejudice involved the Jews. They endured persecution and mistreatment for thousands of years. One of the most threatening attempts to eliminate this group took place during the Second World War. During this time, millions of Jews were killed in the name of Nazi ideals of "racial purity”. It is unfortunate that cases of prejudice have continued to flourish up-to-date despite the fact that people are more informed than in the past. Many studies have been conducted to dig more information on prejudice and discrimination. Qualitative methods have been widely used in these studies.
Methods of qualitative research
The data, which is used in qualitative research, is collected using various qualitative techniques. These techniques include observation of actions, places, or people; interviewing individuals; analysis of media content; and conducting conversations with various groups of people. Each of these techniques differs in the source of information, and in the tasks done by the researcher when collecting information (Somekh & Lewin, 2005).
Presumably, naturalistic observation marks as the oldest qualitative method. Biologists have been using this method for centuries in the study of animals. In addition, sociologists have been using the same method in examining people’s behavior. In naturalistic approach, the observer steps back from the event being studied, and make every effort not to be involved or interfere with the event under investigation. For example, when studying prejudice and discrimination in children, one can use child psychologists to carry out the observation. This will help to create a friendly atmosphere within the children, and cases of influencing how the children conduct themselves, will be minimal, if any (Berg, 2001). Introduction of audio and video technology has enabled this exercise to be carried with ease, because observers can collect any information without hiding themselves. However, it is unfortunate that the ethics of observing (spying) people is to some extend questionable.
Psychologists and sociologist have modified naturalistic method to another method known as participant observation. A sociologist who intends to study certain lifestyle of a group of people like ‘college students’, can actually join the group and socialize with them. As a member in the group, the sociologist will be in a position to record any behavior under scrutiny without interfering with the way the members interact with each other.
Another useful qualitative method used in psychologists and other social sciences is interview. Carrying out interviews is not as easy as people may think. In fact, not all people who carry out interviews qualify for the job. Interviewing requires the interviewer not to listen to the participant with any prejudiced idea. In addition, it is imperative that the interviewer does not lead the participant to the direction he/she prefers best. The interviewer should also avoid misinterpreting what the respondent says (Bogdan & Taylor, 1975). In other words, all interviewers are required to be conscious of their own bias.
Content analysis is another technique of collecting data, and it entails scrutiny of some form of communications or media in order to identify how such messages are part of culture. Researchers who are involved in content analysis collect their data (television sitcoms, magazine articles, etc) from various media outlets, and analyze it to get the message being communicated and the types of images used to send specific types of messages (Garner, Wagner, & Kawulich, 2009). This method is to some extend unique as compared to the other qualitative methods in that it uses quantitative analysis. As a result, this method provides data, which can be analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative techniques.
Why qualitative methods are preferred in the study of prejudice and discrimination
Qualitative research is one of the primary approaches adopted in conducting social sciences studies. This approach is an effective means for conducting meaningful study on prejudice and discrimination. The numerous benefits of using qualitative techniques provide a depth understanding of prejudice and discrimination, which cannot be realized when using quantitative methods. Because of the mode of data collection and analysis, the knowledge got when using qualitative techniques in study of prejudice and discrimination is richer, more informative, and offers extended understanding as compared to that got when using quantitative methods.
Qualitative research derives its superiority from the core differences existing between it and quantitative research, on what both can contribute to various bodies of knowledge. Through qualitative techniques, researchers are able to provide thorough interpretation to customers with depth of understanding, and complete views. In other words, qualitative techniques are the methods, which put the primary value on complete understanding (Berg, 2001).
Although qualitative research has its own weaknesses, when conducted well, it provides some advances to knowledge, and provides valuable insights. The results got when using qualitative research differ from those got when using quantitative techniques; however, because the results differ in the two approaches, it does not mean that the two are not equally valuable. Qualitative methods generate knowledge that complements that generated by quantitative research (Bogdan & Taylor, 1975).
Advantages of using qualitative methods in social psychology
Descriptive, unobtrusive, and inductive methods for data collection are normally viewed to be the most compatible with the core values of social research. In situations where social workers have challenges and issues, which are not examinable with quantitative techniques, qualitative methods have always adopted and given out impressive results (Morse, 2009). For instance, clinicians mostly rely on interviews and observation methods to collect data on client’s issues.
In studies, concerning social processes of sophisticated human systems like families, communities, and organizations, qualitative techniques yields the most appropriate data. This is because qualitative methods assist in understanding of communication patterns, dynamic processes, and family and individual constructions of reality.
Another advantage of qualitative techniques is that they are more flexible than quantitative methods. For example, a qualitative researcher carrying out a face-to-face interview can easily change the interview schedule in situations where the interviewee’s responses imply that there is need for additional probes (Morse, 2009).
Moreover, qualitative methods create an opportunity for in-depth analysis. For instance, a qualitative researcher can understand in-depth the interviewee’s situation, attitudes or belief, by developing and asking questions on the spot. Another advantage of using qualitative methods is that researcher can observe a number of aspects concerning the social situation under scrutiny. For example, in the course of observation or interview, a researcher can observe changes in mood, bodily expression, environmental factors that can affect interviewee’s responses, and voice intonation (Berdie & Anderson, 1974).
Weaknesses of Qualitative research
* The results got from qualitative research do not represents other settings or people, but only represent views of the relatively few participants in the study.
* In some instances, a researcher may want to make some predictions after completion of the research. In the case of qualitative research, it is not easy to make predictions hence the approach is unreliable.
* In case a researcher wants to test hypothesis on large participant pools, it will be a cumbersome exercise when using qualitative approach technique.
* This approach takes more time as compared to quantitative approach.
* The results can be easily affected by the researcher’s bias.
* Analyzing data using this approach takes more time than quantitative approach.
Issues in Qualitative research Approach
Validity and reliability
Among the many cited criticisms of qualitative techniques are the presumed lack of validity and reliability of the results obtained. Arguing on basis of the field study, critics have been questioning the capability of qualitative techniques to obtain correct impression or answers about the phenomenon under study. In addition, critics also question the influence of interviewer or observer’s presence on the event being studied, and the bias on the part of the observe...
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