Social and Political Data Science: Introduction

Methods of Data Collection and Production

Karl Ho

School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences

University of Texas at Dallas

Qualitative Data

What is Qualitative research?

Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how people make sense of their world and the experiences they have in the world.

(Merriam, 2009, p. 13)

What is Qualitative research?

[Qualitative research is] research using methods such as participant observation or case studies which result in a narrative, descriptive account of a setting or practice. Sociologists using these methods typically reject positivism and adopt a form of interpretive sociology.

(Parkinson & Drislane, 2011)

What is Qualitative research?

Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that turn or convert the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self.

(Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 3)

What is Qualitative research?

[In other words], qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of
the meanings people bring to them.

(Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. 3)

What is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative research involves any research that uses data that do not indicate ordinal values.

(Nkwi, Nyamongo, and Ryan 2001, p. 1)


In short, qualitative research involves collecting and/or working with text, images, or sounds.


Qualitative Data Methods

  1. Participant observation

  2. In-depth interviews

  3. Focus groups

  4. Systematic elicitation

  5. Document analysis

Qualitative Research and Data

Objectives of Qualitative Research

  1. Identifying and exploring

    • Building a list
  2. Describing

    • Deep data
  3. Explaining

    • Addressing whys

Qualitative Data Methods

  1. Inductive approach

  2. How and why questions

  3. Open-end exploratory questions

  4. Sequence:

    1. What do you think?
    2. Why do you think so?
    3. How do you like or dislike_____?

Qualitative Research: Human Experience

  1. Behaviors

  2. Attitudes/Opinions/Perceptions

  3. Knowledge

  4. Emotions and Values

  5. Culturally Shared Meaning

  6. Social Structures and Relationships

  7. Processes and Systems

  8. Environmental Context

Qualitative Research: Temporal dimension

  1. Single time point (cross-sectional)

  2. Longitudinal study  

  3. Panel study (cohort study) 

Qualitative Research: Level and Unit of Analysis

Open interviews

  1. Causality

  2. Face validity

  3. Reliability issue

  4. Future:

    1. AI guided internet survey
    2. Accumulated data using machine-learning

Qualitative Research and structure

Qualitative Data: Sampling

  1. What is the population?

    1. What is the representative sample?
  2. Approaches

  3. Sample size

Qualitative Data:

Sampling Strategy

  1. Estimate the size of the population of interest

  2. Control

    1. How much control you will have over your recruitment and sampling procedures
    2. How certain you are about who, what, where you need to sample for your study.
  3. Accumulative

  4. Adaptive

Future of Qualitative Research

  1. Other data than text

    1. Complex data
    2. Audio, visual and video data
    3. Machine Learning
    4. Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Mixed-methods Research

  1. Integration of qualitative and quantitative methods in a single study

  2. Strategy instead of a method

  3. Attend to structure of data

Mixed-methods Research: Sampling

  1. Temporal dimension

    1. Sequential
    2. Concurrent
  2. Relationships of Samples

    1. Identical
    2. Parallel
    3. Nested
    4. Multilevel

Mixed-methods Research

Managing Qualitative Data

Data management is “a designed structure for systematizing, categorizing, and filing materials to make them efficiently retrievable and duplicable”

- Schwandt, 1997, p. 61

A note on Career

  1. Readiness

    1. Career center visit

    2. CV

    3. Self-evaluations

  2. Preparation

    1. Skill inventory

    2. Project showcase

  3. Character/leadership

    1. What is your mentor/supervisor looking for?

    2. Life goals