Researching racism: reflections on different methodological approaches to recording people's experiences of racism

Publication type

Conference Paper


Bethan Harries and Laia Becares

Publication date

Series Number



This paper combines two contrasting and complementing methodologies to
explore young people’s experiences of racism in everyday life. The paper
will reflect on how the use of qualitative and quantitative methods can
lead us to different understandings of experienced racism. The first
method uses ethnography and non-structured interviews which do not
directly ask respondents to talk about their experiences of racism. The
second method examines data from the Understanding Society (UK) survey,
which records people’s responses to specific questions about their own
and others’ experiences of racism.
What emerged is that in the qualitative project, participants found
it difficult to name racism and denied that quite explicit forms of
racism they had experienced was ‘really’ racism. In the survey,
respondents recorded widespread racism which they and/or people they
knew had experienced. This paper considers some of the implications of
these apparently divergent findings. The use of ready-structured
questions is helpful in alerting us to the persisting prevalence of
racism. This is facilitated when survey respondents are not actively
encouraged to reflect on the personal and are able to externalize their
experiences. The qualitative study on the other hand highlights how
confronting racism can be difficult. The paper argues the process of
interview can in itself help reveal a great deal about the nature of
different forms of racism. The paper also indicates that this has
worrying implications for the ways in which racism can be resisted in
everyday life when it can be so difficult to talk about.


Young People, Survey Methodology and Race Relations