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On the importance of teaching robust work using qualitative methods in the social sciences

One of my biggest pet peeves is how we end up rehashing discussions all the time about the same topics. I feel forced to write Twitter threads and blog posts about the validity, rigor and importance of qualitative research on a regular basis, particularly because for some scholars, qualitative work appears to be considered “easy”. The relatively recent popularity of quantitative and experimental approaches in political science combined with an apparent belief that qualitative research is less relevant/rigorous/well done than quantitative work seem to be two factors that influence uptake and popularity of qualitative research methods in political science.

Mazapil - Concepcion del Oro - Salaverna - Fieldwork  June 8 2018

Photo from one of my trips doing ethnographic fieldwork in Zacatecas, Mexico, over the summer of 2018.

A recent article in PS: Politics titled Graduate Qualitative Methods Training in Political Science: A Disciplinary Crisis by Cassandra Emmons and Andrew Moravcsik reports that there appears to be a dearth of training in qualitative methods in the political science field at many universities. I really don’t have much time to discuss it in detail so both this post and my Twitter thread only discuss two aspects of the debate: the importance of teaching qualitative methods and of publishing good qualitative work.

I admit that I DO have a stake in the development of qualitative methods as a field.

My Twitter thread draws from my experience here in Mexico. While I do field research all over the world, I do have a lot of work that focuses on Mexico, and as a result, I need to read scholarship in the Spanish language. In my experience reading a lot of the Spanish-language stuff that is being published in Mexico (and A TON of what’s published in English worldwide), it seems to me as though people are teaching that “qualitative methods is everything that is not quantitative methods”.


The conversation on research methods and qualitative vs. quantitative is far from over, and I am hoping this blog post will contribute to the discussion too.

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Posted in academia, qualitative methods, research, research methods.

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