The Importance of Social Biography and Oral History in Qualitative Methods

Bill Sanders, University of London, Goldsmiths College

In this paper, I argue that aspects of a researcher's biography or 'oral history' are of central importance in research using qualitative methods such as interviews and observations. I suggest that within the history of qualitative research there exists a personal connection between researcher and researched, and that from this connection a researcher is afforded deeper insight, intially, into social phenomena. I further suggest that due to this personal connection, measuring validity and reliability in some qualitative studies becomes difficult. Overall, I relate the concepts of oral history and access to 'rare and deviant' populations, as well as how a researcher's oral history is important to consider when studying subjects from varying ethnicities. The points made in this paper are supported by my qualitiative research experience.

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Updated 05/20/2006