Assess the Strengths and Weaknesses of Using Qualitative Data Collection Methods to Study Ethnic Minority Attitudes Towards the Police

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Qualitative data collection involves collecting data that reflect feelings, attitudes and emotions about people's experiences. Such data tend to be richer in detail than data obtained by quantitative means. Sociologists since skolnick have discussed the existence of a canteen culture that can reinforce racial prejudice. In addition the McPherson report following the Stephen Lawrence murder found evidence of institutional racism in the metropolitan force. A qualitative approach to researching this would be centred on trying to understand the factors and meanings that lie behind the attitudes of ethnic minorities. As such it is closely associated with Max Weber's concept of verstehan. Qualitative research is needed to tease oth the evidence suggested in the item that relations between the police and black or other ethnic minority communities are problematic, especially among young black males where there can be a lack of trust and a degree of hostility. Qualitative data are normally collected in the interpretive tradition through small scale research studies. Such an approach in this case would seek to understand the attitudes of ethnic minorities towards the police through methods such as semi-structured or unstructured interviews. Unstructured interviews are informal sessions with the interviewer asking open ended questions, in this case about attitudes to the police. The idea is that respondents are free to answer in depth. However a potential problem here is that researchers could ask leading questions or put across an anti police bias, which might encourage the respondents to exaggerate their experiences. A qualitative approach ought to collect data that are high in validity. This is not guaranteed, but is expected if qualitative practices and methods are used that encourage minority's ethnic groups to open up and give honest answers about their experiences

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