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Social Autopsy: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding and Reacting to Increases in Methamphetamine Manufacturing in a Small Rural Community

By: Published: 2014 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases Part 1
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Anytown (a pseudonym) is a small midwestern community with a population just under 50,000; it is also home to a major state university. Within months following enactment of a state law regulating precursor chemicals, clandestine methamphetamine (meth) labs began disappearing statewide. At the same time, Anytown witnessed an increase of local meth labs and meth-related arrests with inadequate resources to combat the problem. This case study illustrates a mixed-methods approach to studying social problems. The isolated community provided an ideal case-study setting. Increases in illegal meth use and labs provided serious social problems. The study began by involving community stakeholders in a rapid action research methodology including a grounded theory approach to data analysis. As the research continued, methodologies and theory evolved into what I eventually called a social autopsy. Ultimately, data suggested that availability of technology and increases in social networking had contributed to increases in meth production, which suggested a possible solution. Attention is paid to the elements of rapid action research and grounded theory while emphasizing the benefits and flexibility offered by a mixed-methods approach. By allowing the research topic to influence the research methodologies, theory evolved, providing an explanation for the research problem.

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