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Ethnographic and Qualitative Research

A major component of UHRI is ethnographic and qualitative research. Ethnography involves the study of human behaviour in its natural settings and seeks to build a detailed understanding of the social worlds where people live their lives. Qualitative research primarily involves the use of in-depth interviews to obtain a more profound understanding of the topics and social processes being studied. Ethnographic and qualitative research carried out through UHRI focuses on the experiences of street-based injection drug users, street youth, and HIV-positive individuals living in and around Vancouver's Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. This work includes participant-observation activities (“hanging out” to directly observe the behaviour under study), as well as an ongoing series of open-ended, in-depth interviews during which participants are able to describe in their own words how specific programs, environments, or policies are affecting their health.

Topics of our qualitative research to date include, among others: injection drug users' opinions of services available at Insite; women's experiences of Insite as a safe haven from the violence of the streets; the effects on injection drug users of intensified policy activity; and the incarceration experiences of injection drug users.