Strengths and Weaknesses of the Qualitative Methodology

Last Updated: 27 Jan 2021
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Cotte’s paper primarily deals with the Economic, Symbolic and Hedonic motives of gambling (2-3). Her method is centered on Ethnographic Participant Observation (1). The study was conducted on a Northeastern casino (10) for 90 hours that was accumulated through 30 visits between October 1995 and March 1996 (9). This critique will concentrate on the analysis of Cotte’s Literature Review, Research Design and Methods and Subjects chosen for the study.

Literature Review

Cotte’s literature review tackles the economic, symbolic and hedonistic motives of recreational gambling.

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With an emphasis centered on “Experiential Consumption” (6) which explains the role of motives in human behaviors and decisions, the paper was able to prove its point that the human drive to gamble stems out from the desire to learn and evaluate the game (12), to have a feeling of a “rush” (14), to demonstrate self-definition such as being a “variety-seeker, rebel, and casino pro” (15), to fulfill the desire to be a risk-taker (18) and to view “cognitive self-classification” that is primarily achieved through “interpersonal relationships” (19).

Similarly, the study reveals that urge for “emotional self classifications” are also evident (19); similarly, human competition (20) and communion (21) are also part of the characteristics that were studied. The paper’s main criticism for the author’s literature review is: Cotte, by opting to focus on the hedonistic aspect of gambling has established the claim that recreational gambling primarily is a result of emotion in its most “barbaric sense” and provides no rational explanation whatsoever on the concept of recreational gambling.

Cotte presented eight cells (12-21) which tells the reason in a form of a conversation between her (i. e. the researcher) or other people through overheard conversations or observations explaining why people gamble. It could be significantly noted that Cotte have made various explanations linking the results of the observation and or interview to her related literature; it appears that those explanations are only liked to the situations wherein there is an emphasis on the hedonistic drive (12-18).

The author explained that the feeling of excitement, rush, the unknown etc are the primary reasons why people keep on coming back to the casino and even bringing their families with them to gamble as well (18). However, the paper would like to assert that although the first few cells are significantly linked on the theories that the author used, the last three cells were explained by the author in such an abrupt manner that she suddenly inserts a theory that in no way was she was able to elaborate on her literature review (19, 21).

The Utilitarian Theory which definition is not established or discussed at all was inserted and was used to explain “emotional self classification” (19) and communing (21). In virtue of its philosophical roots, the Utilitarian theory was introduced by JS Mill and is commonly known for having this maxim: the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. However, the paper would want to establish that the author coined a different concept to the theory by equating utilitarianism to “rationality” which is definitely not the case.

The paper acknowledges however that linguistics of course allows a convention to give a different meaning to a particular word. However, if this is the case, the author should have at least provided an operational definition of her review of related literature. Research Design and Methods The author’s method is qualitative research focusing on Ethnographic Participant Observation (1). Her data gathering method was done primarily through unstructured interviews (Bailey, 1994) and observation (Holloway, 2002). The paper has two main criticisms:

  1. Unstructured interviews are relatively prone to bias (Bailey, 1994, 195). The unstructured interview wherein the interviewer has the advantages of probing her subjects more has a high degree of possibility to be interpreted in a different manner than what the subjects really intend it to be (195). Also, in comparing the unstructured interview to the structured interview, Bailey argued that “the mere fact that a highly structured interview has a neatly typed questionnaire is easy to code, and seems to be reliable does not ensure that the information gathered will be superior to that gathered with an unstructured interview” (195).
  2. The second criticism of the paper is that observations are primarily documented through field notes and should be in four types: condensed account, the expanded account, the fieldwork journal, and analysis and interpretation notes (Holloway, 2002, 135). However, it could be noted that the author has made clear on her paper that she only has “field notes” (which is a generalized note) and “introspections” (10) for her data gathering. Holloway (2002) by quoting Spradley (1979) on her book explained that it is necessary that all of these field notes should be done by any researcher who will use the Ethnographic method.

However, the paper also recognizes the advantages of unstructured research. It is also noted by Bailey (1994) that most cases reveal that unstructured interviews have the capability of eliciting more favorable responses from its subjects. The fact that the interview is more informal in its setting and is generally friendly, most researchers are able to get the innermost feelings of their subjects that the subjects on the other hand might not consciously realize that they possess.

Similarly, the descriptive ethnography method (Holloway, 2002) is capable of presenting an account of a particular behavior on a specific area or industry. Similar to the case of the recreational gamblers in the northeast, the author was able to present what type of recreational gamblers those people are going in that casino. Cotte’s output as she stated on the latter part of her paper could be grounds for better and improved researches.

Subjects of the Study

The subjects of the study are randomly chosen.

As evident on the research conducted, the author claims that most of the data gathered are from abrupt conversations, overheard conversations and observations. Hence, the paper claims that there is no way that the author could further verify if the same emotions or motives still apply after that particular day or the days after that particular study. Similarly, the context of the study (Holloway, 2002) that is in Northeast America does not allow the study’s conclusion to be extended to other locations or cultural contexts. Conclusion:

The paper would say that the author’s attempts to verify that recreational gambler’s motivations in gambling are primarily driven by their hedonistic motives are successful. However, there should be enough detail that should be given in terms of the literature’s completeness, further efforts to make the methodology more valid and a more diverse choice of the respondents.

Literature Cited

  1. Holloway, I. (2002). Qualitative Research Methods in Public Relations and Marketing Communications. London: Routledge.
  2. Bailey K. (1994). Methods of Social Research. New York: The Free Press.

Cite this Page

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Qualitative Methodology. (2016, Aug 11). Retrieved from

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