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Book Chapter


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Publication Details

Originally published in J. Hogan, P. Dolan and P. Donnelly (eds) Approaches to Qualitative Research - Theory & Its Practical Application: A Guide for Dissertation Students, pp. 185–208. Cork: Oak Tree Press. Copyright Paddy Dolan. See


Notwithstanding significant changes in the research cultures of many social science disciplines, there remains a certain orthodoxy in the selection of qualitative methods for consumer research in particular. In this field, focus groups and depth (or qualitative) interviews reign supreme, while the use of documentary evidence is sparse. The obvious exception is the growing number of studies written by historians of consumer culture (see for example, Cohen, 2003; De Grazia, 2005; Donohue, 2006). Historians have traditionally used documents as evidence of particular events, values, ideas and practices at specific times and places. These events can then be organised into a sequence over time, thereby constituting a narrative of change. Historians, though, are less likely to try to build an explanatory model of change based on broader social scientific theories (there are of course exceptions, and this is a matter of degree rather than an absolute difference).