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Non-Experimental Research Methods: Qualitative Perspectives

Select one of the non-experimental methods (naturalistic observation, ethnography, case history, sociometry, archival study, and content analysis), and describe how you might use this method to study your hypothetical research question from a more qualitative perspective. Why did you select this particular method for your research study? What do you like and dislike about this method? What differentiates this non-experimental method from a true experiment?

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Since we only have to worry about one, I chose ethnography. I know quite a bit about it and know the literature.

Of course, the Detroit example cannot rest on ethnography alone. Yet, we are speaking of anomie. This is, by definition, a qualitative concept. It's tough to measure, though the symptoms of it are not. Clifford Geertz (died 2006) was one of the more modern writers to deal with this concept relative to those values that hold a society together. Geertz comes to some very conservative conclusions, so on occasion, he will deny this in order to safeguard his standing in elite academia. Yet, he cannot avoid it. He is, more or less, a conservative communitarian and ethno-nationalist. He would not use these terms, but for reasons that have nothing to do with scholarly accuracy.

All societies have a few things in common, it is what makes them societies: they must have a common language, basic moral and political agreement (on fundamental things), must have a sense of civic mission and destiny, a sense of its historical self and that it persists through time. Taken together, these are "ethnicity." These are the components of a deep identity. Individuals are shaped by it rather than the reverse. What happens if some of these are missing?

Without a common language, how is communication possible? Speaking the same language (in a broad sense, not just words and syntax) is the foundation of any civic debate or discussion. When I use the word "state," I need to be sure that you understand it in the American way (that is, a set of bureaucratic, basically coercive offices), versus the German or Russian way (that is, the cultural community as a whole crystallized in government).

Without basic moral and political agreement, we're in the same boat. Capitalists and socialists, while similar in many ways, have different conceptions entirely about words like "value," "labor," "governments," "class," "generality," "history," "production," "the individual," "self interest" and hundreds more. Therefore, the two cannot speak to each other, since they are using the same words, but mean different things by them. Such discussion usually ends up in a physical confrontation since verbalization means so little. This is similar to the concept of a civic mission: the idea that our society and its institutions do not exist by random chance, but has something to communicate to the world. It is meaningful beyond its own borders. If this is rejected, nihilism results, and there is nothing true or special about the system you were born into.

The sense of historical self-hood and persistence are similar ideas. The political body must be coherent. If the society is made up of random people of different languages, races, political ideologies and vocabularies, there is no government, no consensus, and no community. It is impossible from a practical point of view. There can be no decision, no democracy, no constitution, since agreement is impossible, and even if it were, there would be no way to communicate it. This coherence is ideal. It is not something that you can feel or touch, and often, it must be grasped from inside. It is not a subject of academic study of itself.

Looking at ethnic groups from the outside usually means to distort them. In other words, alienated, liberal, urban academics trying to grasp ancient Kiev is nothing short of absurd. Their worlds and assumptions are so different that the scholar will not be able to avoid imposing his own sense of right and wrong onto ancient life. There are no frames of reference to guide this hapless professor. It's a bit like claiming to be an expert on Tibet without knowing anything about Buddhism.

Why is any of this important? This kind of thick identity is ...

Solution Summary

The methods to study for hypothetical research questions from a more qualitative perspectives are given. What differentiates this non-experimental method from a true experiment are determined.