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Intensive Qualitative Research: Challenges, Best Uses, and Opportunities

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Publication Date: April 2003

Publisher(s): MDRC (Organization)

Author(s): Alissa Gardenhire; Laura Nelson

Funder(s): Pew Charitable Trusts

Funder(s): Pew Charitable Trusts

Topic: Social conditions (Social research)

Keywords: Research Methodology; Social Programs

Type: Report

Coverage: United States


This paper examines the use of ethnographic interviews, focus groups, and other intensive qualitative methods in social policy research. It highlights the unique contributions that qualitative methods can make to efforts to understand the effects of social programs and discusses the challenges of integrating qualitative research into the design, analysis, and presentation of social policy evaluations. Itself an example of illuminating qualitative research, this review of MDRC's experiences culminates in specific guidelines for getting the most out of qualitative methods.