Undertaking Qualitative Research: Concepts and Cases in Injury, Health and Social Life


199 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 0-88864-367-5
DDC 363.1'07072




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


Quantitative research relies on the notion of objective reality shared
by research scientists who collect and quantify research data. The
enterprise is free of moral values and subjective meaning; it is an
“outsider perspective” on human society. Social engineers can
manipulate the variables, such as human behavior or aspects of the
environment, in order to change society according to political dictates
or nonscientific moral values.

Qualitative research, by contrast, always involves some form of
interaction between the researcher and the subjects of research. The
latter “construct” their own social world and environment, which
they express in words, action, norms, and gestures, all of them
essential considerations in research work. The subjective notion of
understanding (verstehen) inevitably colors the players’ outlook on
the world, itself a product of understanding and imagination, not just
the perception of reality, shared or otherwise.

The job of the researcher, then, is to study the quality of the
subjects’ world-experience in ways utterly foreign to quantitative
research. He or she brings meaning and moral values to the enterprise,
one particular set of meanings in dynamic interaction with the meanings
ascribed to social reality by the subjects.

Undertaking Qualitative Research is a good, practical guide to a
complex subject. The author does not offer a unified, prescriptive guide
to the various theoretical approaches to qualitative research. Rather,
he poses a number of contrasts and dilemmas, leaving it to the potential
researcher to resolve. Different theories and different researcher
profiles will lead to “different orderings” of social reality,
different inferences, different understandings, different “results.”
All are potentially legitimate, varying in richness and political


Rothe, J. Peter., “Undertaking Qualitative Research: Concepts and Cases in Injury, Health and Social Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/8947.