Volume 11 - Article 3 | Pages 57–94
Qualitative data in demography: The sound of silence and other problems
|Date received:||20 Jan 2004|
|Date published:||26 Aug 2004|
|Keywords:||data collection, in-depth interviews, interviewers, qualitative data, research methods, Senegal, Zimbabwe|
Qualitative methods and insights from other disciplines are increasingly integrated into demography’s traditionally quantitative toolkit. Whereas this is not problematic for multi-disciplinary research projects difficulties may arise when quantitatively trained demographers diversify to use less familiar data collection tools. We review the scale of this recent trend and the choice of qualitative methods typically employed by demographic researchers.
Using insights from a comparative qualitative study undertaken in Zimbabwe and Senegal, we discuss some problems inherent in qualitative data collection and analysis and propose ways in which such data should and should not be used. Focussing in particular on semi-structured in-depth interviews, we discuss issues of representativity, investigate respondents’ silence on specific topics, and the role of interviewer characteristics in influencing the interview subject matter.
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