The promising integration of qualitative methods and field experiments

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59 Scopus citations


Randomized field experiments should take a more central place in qualitative research. Although field experimentation is often considered a quantitative enterprise, this paper illustrates the compatibility of field experimentation with various types of qualitative measurement tools and research questions. Integrating qualitative and quantitative data within field experiments allows investigators to move past simple average treatment effects and explore mechanisms of the identified causal effect. A more novel proposal is to use field experimentation as the organizing methodological framework for archival, ethnographic, or interpretive work, and to use ethnographic methods as the primary source of measurement in "experimental ethnography." Sustained research and theoretical specificity can address some of the seemingly incompatible features of qualitative and field experimental methods. For example, small sample sizes are acceptable as part of a research program, and some theories of historical patterns or rare events could be disaggregated into smaller cause-and-effect linkages to test with field experiments in theoretically relevant contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-71
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • Archival methods
  • Experimental ethnography
  • Field experimentation
  • Interpretive methods
  • Qualitative methods


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