Qualitative Methods in Social Science

Is it possible to conduct scientific research just by talking to or observing people? Is experiment in social science possible? Why is it that contemporary social scientists don’t always trust statistics and polls alone? What is the difference between a qualitative sociologist and a journalist – or a quantitative sociologist? And most importantly, how do we organize qualitative social research?

In this course we will discuss the main methods of conducting qualitative research, including interviews, observation, experiments, discourse and content analysis, as well as other approaches. We will also consider the problems researchers usually face when organizing their fieldwork: how to find informants, how to empathize with their feelings, how to preserve the emotional distance necessary for analysis, how to work in a dangerous field, and whether or not it is appropriate to hide the real goals of research. Throughout we will not only read some of the major texts in social research methods, but we will also experiment with different types of fieldwork together, trying out a number of different methods in practice.

Svetlana Erpyleva:

Svetlana Erpyleva is a sociologist, and a researcher with the Public Sociology Laboratory (PS Lab). She holds a PhD degree in Social Sciences from the University of Helsinki. Her dissertation was devoted to the political socialization of civic activists in Russia. She is the author of articles on political socialization, political involvement, and political culture in Russia and Ukraine and co-author of the collective monograph «Politics of Apoliticals» (2015, in Russian). She took part in research projects on civil society, protest movements, and war in post-communist world. Her primary field of research is a research on children and youth, political socialization, and biographical analysis.