Research Methods: The Old Tradition
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If we were to construct a stereotype of the methods used in the typical book-length report of the Institute of Community Studies, it would go something like this: The survey was, of course, done in Bethnal Green, and the book opens with a picturesque and graphic account of the area in general and of the more striking aspects of the lives of the people studied. The subject is a problem of social policy, and the survey is concerned with those at the receiving end of it, in particular as it affects and is affected by their family relationships. The research director himself, with the help of one or two colleagues, conducted 50–100 intensive interviews, using a rather unstructured schedule with many open-ended questions. A team of hired interviewers, using a highly structured schedule with mainly closed and factual questions, interviewed a sample of 800–1000 respondents in a more superficial way. Some data of a rather impressionistic nature were also collected by other means, such as informal observation and asking selected informants to keep diaries. The approach is mainly descriptive, with no formal hypotheses; the data are only very tentatively used to construct and test possible explanations of the observed facts, and there is little overt use of multivariate analysis or statistical tests.
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