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Explain and evaluate the use of unstructured interviews/qualitative data to research the lifestyle choices (identity) of retired senior managers/old people. [52 mk]

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Introduction

´╗┐Using the pre-release material and your wider sociological knowledge explain and evaluate the use of unstructured interviews/qualitative data to research the lifestyle choices (identity) of retired senior managers/old people. [52 mk] ___________________________________________________________________________ 1. The pre-release material on age identity reveals that the researchers aim to explore the ?experiences of? and the change in ?meanings and expectation attached to? retirement. It also aims at understanding changes in lifestyle and social roles associated with retirement. 1. It would be relevant to begin by reflecting over the ontology of the subject matter being researched as this in turn would decide the epistemology (knowledge building methods). A greater understanding of the nature of the ?subject matter? is available in the following key research questions framed by the researchers: (a) to what extent do the respondents construct a new balance of activities? (b) Do respondents construct new discourses of everyday life? (c) Does the move by respondents into leisure retirement create new tensions in other parts of their lives? (d) The extent to which there was heterogeneity in the experience of retirement among the sample, (e) whether or not there was a personal awareness of the ?Third and Fourth Ages?, (f) the extent to which the attitudes and beliefs of retired people resonated with the notion of an individualised, reflexive, ?quasi-subject?. ...read more.

Middle

It is generally agreed that larger the sample size greater are the chances of it being more ?representative? and therefore, greater ?generalisability?. However, given the time and resource constraints that all researches encounter as also the in-depth nature of the tool (un-structured interviews) used, a sample of 20 appear to be acceptable. 1. The interviews were conducted lasting between one and a half to two hours either at the respondents? homes or at a place of their choice. The length of the interviews indicated the in depth nature of elicitation. The place of interviews showed that researchers took due care to ensure ?ecological validity?. Success of unstructured interviews is dependent upon a sustained relationship between the informant and the researcher (building a rapport). If interviewees are to be viewed as subjects who actively construct the features of their cognitive world, researchers were to obtain inter-subjective depth between both sides so that a deep mutual understanding can be achieved. A cardinal strength of the qualitative method is the element of ?verstehen? (empathy) yielding rich valid data. Another distinct advantage of an unstructured interview is that it enables the researcher to ask further questions beyond what they already had planned. The researcher can also find out important information which did not seem relevant before the interview and ask the interviewee to go further into the new topics. ...read more.

Conclusion

1. The other known criticisms, mostly emanating from positivist persuasion, include: (a) the data collected is prone to digression and much of the data collected could be worthless, (b) the data is not reliable as it cannot be replicated with the same results due to a number of factors, (c) unstructured interviews are usually small scale making it difficult to generalise with the results, (d) data collection is hard to categorise as there is likely to be a variety of different answers and (e) coding will require more work when choosing categories for the respondents. 1. Within the qualitative research tradition semi-structured interview could have been preferred over un-structured interview. This would have introduced both: pre-standardized structure and flexibility. Furthermore, a mixed method approach comprising questionnaires and semi-structured interviews would have allowed understanding and analysing structural effects (e.g. changes in pension schemes, work & labour market) on retirement and old age identity in second modernity. This would have perhaps also meant using the strength of one method to overcome the limitations of the other especially, adding strength to findings by way of corroboration of data. 1. In conclusion, about which method is most suitable to research the type of subject matter dealt by the researchers, it can only be said that it would always be plagued by the big philosophical quest on methodology: how to construct objective accounts of a subjective reality (Alfred Schutz 1967). ...read more.

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