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This chapter discusses the analysis of qualitative material. There are many types of qualitative analysis. Some approaches are related to specific forms of data, whereas others are more generic in nature. There can also be considerable differences between some forms of qualitative analysis to the extent that they have very little in common with one another. Given this diversity, it is not possible adequately to address every type of analysis, or provide highly detailed instructions for the more common techniques. Hence, the chapter introduces the iterative processes of coding and categorization as well as some of the major types of qualitative analysis. It shows how to identify key concepts in data, and how those concepts can be connected to theory.

Chapter

Arnaud Dufays

This chapter evaluates Bayesian inference, which refers to the Bayesian statistical method for estimating the parameters of a model and for testing a hypothesis. It relies on subjective statistics and extensively uses Bayes’s theorem. In the early 1990s, Bayesian statistics boomed with the emergence of sampling techniques. These new tools rely on the computational power to sample from (rather than evaluate) the posterior probability. However, the main drawback of the Bayesian approach lies in the computation of the posterior probability. The analytical computation of the posterior probability is a complex problem for any application, and this has limited Bayesian statistics for years.

Chapter

Focus Groups  

Trends, Issues, and Debates

Andrew Parker and Jonathan Tritter

This chapter looks at focus groups, which grew out of both a therapeutic and marketing tradition and have been utilized by social scientists for many years. Their format constitutes a type of interview technique where six to twelve people are brought together and encouraged to discuss specific topics for 60–90 minutes in order that underlying issues might be explored. Focus groups are often used to investigate areas about which relatively little is known, and they are premised on face-to-face interactions between participants rather than direct responses to questions. More recently they have been adapted to online settings, particularly for hard-to-reach populations. Focus groups are valuable because they capture and harness group interaction to prompt fuller and deeper discussion and the triggering of new ideas. But in order for these dynamics to develop, it is vital that people’s stories are not already well known to each other.

Chapter

Sampling Techniques  

Sample Types and Sample Size

Emilie van Haute

This chapter assesses sampling techniques. Researchers may restrict their data collection to a sample of a population for convenience or necessity if they lack the time and resources to collect data for the entire population. Therefore, a sample is any subset of units collected from a population. Research sampling techniques refer to case selection strategy — the process and methods used to select a subset of units from a population. While sampling techniques reduce the costs of data collection, they induce a loss in terms of comprehensiveness and accuracy, compared to working on the entire population. The data collected are subject to errors or bias. Two main decisions determine the size or margin of error and whether the results of a sample study can be generalized and applied to the entire population with accuracy: the choice of sample type and the sample size.

Chapter

Matrakova Marta

This chapter explores interview techniques. The use of interviews in social science expanded during the twentieth century. Research interviews with industrial, commercial, and market objectives have also contributed to their development as one of the main methods of social inquiry. The extensive use of interviews as a means of investigation and self-representation in modern society has contributed to their position as the ‘characteristic format for personal narratives’. While positivists conceive interviewers as miners whose main objective is data collection, post-positivists view them as travellers who unravel the intersubjective process of knowledge construction. These different epistemological conceptions of interview research have led to the development of various techniques. The chapter then looks at different types of interviews, including structured/directed interview, semi-structured/semi-directive interview, and in-depth/non-directive interview.