Lois Benjamin is a contemporary sociologist interested in issues of race among successful African Americans. Benjamin wrote a book called The Black Elite, which is a great example of how to use interview research effectively.
Interview research is a methodology in which research subjects are asked a series of questions by the researcher. Benjamin was using a particular kind of interview research relying on semi-structured in-depth interviews. The researcher asks open-ended questions, and the interview takes more of the form of a conversation whereby the interviewer will follow up on things that the interviewee says.
By asking open-ended questions, it allows the person who is being interviewed to elaborate at length on what they feel is important to them and to articulate their meanings and their worldview in their own words, rather than in the words of the researcher.
Benjamin conducted her interviews with successful African Americans and found that despite ostensible improvements in social standing since the Civil Rights Movement and the passing of time, contemporary African Americans still suffer from racial hostilities.
William Foote Whyte was an American sociologist known for excellent participant observation work. He helped to bring this methodology into sociology from anthropology, where it began.
Participant observation is a research method in which subjects are observed in their natural setting, going about their day-to-day routines.
Whyte wrote a book called Street Corner Society that stemmed from his three years of participant observation research within the community. Whyte called the town he studied ‘Cornerville,’ and in Street Corner Society, he argued that the prevailing stereotypes that the outside world--people outside of Cornerville--had of the residents of Cornerville were inaccurate.
The people of Cornerville were, in reality, hardworking and successful, and dreamt of sending their kids to college. In this way, he refuted stereotypes through participant observation research.
Social scientists say that participant observation is essentially a way of making the familiar strange and the strange familiar.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Zach Lamb.