“I believe you have to reach a certain age before you understand how much life really is like a novel, with patterns and leitmotifs and turning points, and guns that must go off and people who must return before the ending.” -Sigrid Nunez, The Last of Her Kind


“It seems to me that you need a lot of courage, or a lot of something, to enter into others, into other people. We all think that everyone else lives in fortresses, in fastnesses: behind moats, behind sheer walls studded with spikes and broken glass. But in fact we inhabit much punier structures. We are, it turns out, all jerry-built. Or not even. You can just stick your head under the flap of the tent and crawl right in. If you get the okay.” -Martin Amis, Time’s Arrow


“When people talk about their lives, they tell stories. It is through stories that we often learn the greatest lessons for our lives – lessons about success and failure, good and evil, what make a life worth living, and what makes a society good. It is through stories, furthermore, that we define who we are. Stories provide us with our identities.” -Dan MacAdams, The Redemptive Self


“We live our lives according to stories.” -Chuck Palahniuk, Stranger than Fiction


I’ll tell you a secret. I’ve always been fascinated by what people say to each other and what they say to themselves. When I was a little girl, I had an old-fashioned tape recorder, a bulky black device with heavy keys you would press hard on to get a cassette tape working. My father was in the U.S. Army, and he would have poker parties once a week with his Army buddies. On those days, I would slide the tape recorder under the card table and press play just before they sat down to play. Oh, the stories I heard! Things a ten-year-old should probably not hear! I would listen and use my children’s typewriter to recreate the dialogue. I thought I could make stories this way. I never got to the making of the stories, but this turned out to be an incredibly helpful practice for my later career as a qualitative researcher/sociologist. Although I would never record someone without their permission, I have recorded a lot of people, made transcripts of those recordings, and analyzed those stories for knowledge about the world. Now I teach other people how to do those things, too. I hope you find this textbook helpful and that it inspires you to listen to the people around you and observe the world with fresh eyes.


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Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods Copyright © 2023 by Allison Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.