Qualitative research involves the development of concepts aimed at understanding social phenomena among participants in their natural settings. The research uses the theoretical sampling of data from a small sample using such methods as interviewing and observation to gain insight into particular social aspects (Austin & Sutton, 2014). In the article ‘Wounded: Life after the Shooting,’ Jooyoung Lee uses one-on-one interviews to conduct a study at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) on the lives of people who survive shooting regarding how gunshot injuries affect the everyday lives of the victims.
The decision by Lee to use face-to-face unstructured interviews with the victims of non-fatal gun shootings is a brilliant method of collecting data and understanding the struggles that these victims face every day. The unstructured nature of the interviews enables the interviewer to build a rapport with the interviewee such that the latter becomes candid about their experiences by expressing their private thoughts and feelings (Alshenqeeti, 2014). For example, when interviewing Kenny, one of the patients at the outpatient trauma clinic at the university hospital, Lee learns that Kenny has never told any of his drug-dealing friends that the bullet hit and tore apart one of his testicles because he is too ashamed to share such a secret for fear that it might jeopardize his status among his peers (Lee 2012). The use of one-on-one interviews also enables the researcher to pick up on non-verbal cues, for example, facial expressions indicating discomfort at some questions, a factor which enables the interview to know which topics to broach carefully (Alshenqeeti, 2014). For example, when Winston whose shooting left him with a stomach hernia explains the shame that he felt when his stomach began to grow at a family dinner, Lee widens his eyes, an act which Winston interprets as a cue to continue with the story of how everyone lost their appetite and made him feel like a freak.
In spite of the advantages associated with interviewing, this data collection method has its weaknesses. According to Alshenqeeti (2014), the efficiency of interviewing is often limited by the sample size, for example in cases where there are too many people to be interviewed yet the interviewers are few. Lee (2012) admits that he faced the challenge of sample size especially because of the seasonal variation of patients visiting the clinic. For example, during the summer, Lee (2012) writes that the patient volume was so high that he lost the chance to interview potential participants, thus forcing him to hire a research assistant. Despite this challenge, Lee was able to conduct his research effectively and bring to light the suffering of victims of non-fatal shootings, a group that is often forgotten by researchers of gun homicide.
Reading through the article, I found it interesting that the researcher was wise enough to realize that it would be significantly difficult to locate gunshot victims in their neighborhoods thus the decision to go to the trauma clinic and speak to these people as they wait to be seen by the doctors. It is also interesting to see how open the gunshot victims are to speaking about their experiences to a stranger, especially because they are too ashamed to express their deepest fears to their friends and family members. I also admire the researcher’s approach to the victims whereby he chooses to be friendly to them by asking them about how they are doing instead of jumping right into asking them questions about how they were shot and how the shooting has affected them. By establishing a rapport with the participants, Lee makes them so comfortable that they are willing to share their most shameful experiences with him.
Alshenqeeti, H. (2014). Interviewing as a Data Collection Method: A Critical Review. English Linguistics Research, 3(1), 39.
Austin, Z., & Sutton, J. (2014). Qualitative Research: Getting Started. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 67(6), 436–440.
Lee, J. (2012). Wounded: Life after the Shooting. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 642(1), 244-257.