Qualitative research has a long history in sociology and has been used within it for as long as the field itself has existed. This type of research has long appealed to social scientists because it allows the research to investigate the meanings that people attribute to their behavior, actions, and interactions with others. While quantitative research is useful for identifying relationships between variables, like, for example, the connection between poverty and racial hate , it is qualitative research that can illuminate why this connection exists by going directly to the source -- the people themselves.
Just as there are various philosophical perspectives which can inform qualitative research, so there are various qualitative research methods. A research method is a strategy of inquiry which moves from the underlying philosophical assumptions to research design and data collection. The choice of research method influences the way in which the researcher collects data. Specific research methods also imply different skills, assumptions and research practices. The four research methods that will be discussed here are action research, case study research, ethnography and grounded theory - for more detail see Myers (2009) .