This chapter explores the rationale for qualitative methods, the origins of qualitative research, and a number of important issues relating to the conduct of qualitative research. The chapter is not intended to be a comprehensive guide to qualitative methods in socio-spatial research. Rather its intention is stimulate the reader’s interest in qualitative methods and encourage their pursuit in a rigorous effective manner. Comprehensive guides and key references to qualitative methods can be found in Crang (2003), Hay (2010) and Herbert et al (2009).
Qualitative methods were developed in the 1980s and 1990s as an alternative way to make observations, collect and analyse data, and create new knowledge. The impetus for the development of qualitative methods arose from widespread dissatisfaction with positive empiricism as the dominant form of research inquiry in the social sciences. It also arose from the desire of many researchers that their work make more direct connections with projects seeking to enhance both distributive and non-distributive forms of justice and the empowerment of marginalised groups.