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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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’.

  1. The subject matter of this type certainly poses challenges in terms of selection of suitable research methods. A methodology premised on positivist persuasion would be hamstrung on several counts. If the ‘social world’ is to be perceived as an ‘interpreted world’ and ‘social actions’ as ‘interpreted facts’, a quantitative method would have serious limitations in generating the data the researchers require. The researchers therefore, have depended upon interactionism/social-action theory which focuses on the ways in which people give meaning to their own and others’ action. The natural selection in such a situation is the qualitative method rooted in the interpretivist approach.
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  1. This is an exploratory research that neither has hypotheses to test nor attempts at explaining causal connection between pre-defined variables. Therefore, operationalization of variables was not involved. The researchers used a two stage sampling process. Since, the research was about early retirees, first, a purposive/judgemental sample was used to access the databases of organisations (gatekeepers) where retired persons worked. Here ‘access’ was gained to the first stage sample by advertising the research project  in newsletters and distributing leaflets at early retirement seminars. This process helped researchers to contact a sample of respondents and they were asked to identify ...

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