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Qualitative data is particularly useful when you wish to find out why people engage in such behaviour.
The way you approach your question will have a profound effect upon the way you construct your dissertation, so this section discusses the types of research you might undertake for your dissertation.
The use of literature and case studies is considered and the merits of primary research are debated and advice is given on the use of existing research data.
Whilst it is possible for dissertations to be entirely literature-based, the most common form of dissertation takes the form of a case study.
Here the focus of attention is on a particular community, organisation or set of documents.
You will probably want to use in-depth qualitative data, and you may wish to adopt a realist, a phenomenologist, or a constructionist approach to the topic.
Qualitative dissertations will include descriptive material, usually extracts from interviews, conversations, documents or field notes, and are therefore likely to be nearer to the upper limit of your word range (e.g. The types of method suitable for a dissertation could include content analysis, a small scale ethnographic study, small scale in-depth qualitative interviewing.
What does the research literature in this field tell us about x?
While all dissertations will include a literature review, it is possible to produce a dissertation that is entirely based on a review of the literature.
You might ask how useful certain concepts or theories are for understanding particular patterns of behaviour. Here, the focus of attention is not so much to discover something about the social world, for example virtual communities, as to reach a judgement about the value of key concepts or theories in understanding that world.
How the study is approached and how contrasting approaches are drawn upon needs to be stated very clearly.