Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 06/2008

Do Qualitative Data Help in Addressing Central American Violence? Research Note on Data Collection

Anika Oettler

May 2008

German Institute of Global and Area Studies


Taking as its point of departure debates on the value of criminal statistics and victimization surveys, this article explores the methodological challenge of an alternative approach to Central American violence(s). How can we collect qualitative data that help address the social construction of (in)security? The research project “Public Spaces and Violence in Central America” used multiple data sources, including guided interviews and pupils’ essays. Drawing on research experience in Nicaragua, this paper asks, How can we collect data that reveal lifeworld experiences as well as hegemonic and counter-discourses on violence? Why is it crucial to keep a research diary? What is a “failed” or a “good” interview? This article argues for a research design based on theoretical considerations, impulsiveness and, most notably, constant self-reflection.