Sociation Today ® 
The Official 
Journal of 
The North 
Association: A 
Refereed Web-Based 
ISSN 1542-6300
Editorial Board:
George H. Conklin,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Bob Davis,
 North Carolina
 Agricultural and
 Technical State

Richard Dixon,

Ken Land,
 Duke University

Miles Simpson,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Ron Wimberley,
 N.C. State University

Robert Wortham,
 North Carolina
 Central University

Editorial Assistants

John W.M. Russell,

Austin W. Ashe
 North Carolina
 Central University

for Authors

Searchable Index
Sociation Today
from the
Directory of 
Open Access
Journals (DOAJ)

Sociation Today
is abstracted in
Sociological Abstracts
and a member
of the EBSCO
Publishing Group

The North
would like
to thank
North Carolina
Central University
for its
sponsorship of


Volume 7, Number 1
Spring 2009

Methodological Triangulation and the Social Studies of Charles Booth, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois


Shannon O'Connor

University of Maryland at Baltimore

    In describing his science of society, Comte stressed that the study of society should be empirically based.  This approach was demonstrated early in the nineteenth century by Harriet Martineau (1837) as she provided an ethnographic description of quality of life in the United States based on her travels throughout the country.  By the end of the nineteenth century, social researchers like Charles Booth, Jane Addams and W.E.B. Du Bois argued that social issues, like quality of life in urban slums could be studied empirically.  These researchers believed that a more inductive approach would lead to a better understanding of social problems.

    Booth is best known for his surveys on the quality of life of impoverished citizens of London from 1886 1903.  Employing an empirical approach to the gathering and analyzing of data on living conditions in London, Booth documented findings that he hoped would provide the basis for change.  In a similar vein from 1896-97, Du Bois conducted a social study of the slum-like conditions of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward.  The studies by Booth and Du Bois were similar in terms of type of data utilized and the focus on social change.  In many ways Booth's seventeen volume study Life and Labour of the People of London (1886 1903) provided a structural foundation for Du Bois, 1899 social study, The Philadelphia Negro.  Likewise, the quality of life issues present in Chicago's slums that were addressed in 1895 by Jane Addams and her colleagues in Hull-House Maps and Papers appear to have provided a foundation for Du Bois in his study of the living conditions of African Americans residing in Philadelphia's Seventh Ward.

Booth and Du Bois

    Booth and Du Bois believed that research should be conducted inductively rather than deductively (Fearon, 2001; Gregg, 1998).  It appears that their preferences for such methodology arose from German influences, like Gustav von Schmoller and the Historical School of Economics, which was popular during the time period (Barkin, 2000; Schrager, 1996; Katznelson, 1999).  Both men felt that social inequality was structurally based and that the general public was unaware of the empirical data that could be provided to document the oppression of the poor (Fearon, 2001; Gregg, 1998; Katz and Sugrue, 1998).  Booth funded his own research using resources from a number of successful businesses which he and his siblings had developed (Fearon, 2001; Booth 1891), while Du Bois' study was funded by the University of Pennsylvania and was closely tied to the "Settlement Movement."  The goal of the study was to understand the causes of the social problems of African Americans residing in the seventh ward (Katz and Sugrue, 1998).  Despite questions as to the real purpose of the study, Du Bois gathered data and generated empirical findings that he felt would expose the oppressive nature of treatment toward African Americans.  It was his hope that these findings would provide a basis for social justice (Schrager, 1996; Katznelson, 1999).

    Another similarity shared by these two researchers involved the use of multiple sources and forms of data to better assess social facts.  This technique is known as methodological triangulation.  Booth's social studies of London's poor employed multiple forms of data in an effort to depict actual conditions faced by the lower class inhabitants of London.  In gathering data for his analyses, Booth combined census data, collected by various governmental departments, with ethnographic and survey data collected by Booth and fellow research associates  (Fearon, 2001; Booth, 1891).  Booth and his colleagues walked tediously from home to home, beginning in East London, in an effort to interview the masses living in impoverished conditions, eventually creating coded maps of their physical attributes.  Booth (1891) acknowledged the use of interview and ethnographic methods in his first poverty series volume of Life and Labour of the People of London.  Throughout his studies on the quality of life of Londoners, Booth noted the use of official data from sources such as the School Board Visitors, the Local Government Board, the School Board of Guardians, the Relieving Officers and the Police, and clergy, as well as data from house to house inquiries mandated by the government (Booth, 1891, Booth, 1902).

    In his study of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward, Du Bois employed many of the same methods of data collection to document the extreme poverty and social ills experienced by African Americans residing in the ward.  In the first chapter of The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois ([1899] 1996: 1-4) noted that data collection began with a house-to-house investigation and was supplemented by official data, census data and historical information.  Throughout his work, he described in the physical and social conditions in which inhabitants of the area under study lived based on his own observations, his house to house interviews, and his analysis of the survey data.

    Booth and Du Bois utilized methodological triangulation as a means to provide extremely detailed empirical data that could be used to draw conclusions about the nature of the social problems experienced by their respective study groups.  Both personally interviewed inhabitants in their homes so as to gain first-hand experience and insight into their living conditions (Booth, 1891; Du Bois, [1899] 1996).

    A third similarity between Booth and Du Bois involved the use of schedules in the collecting of survey data.  Du Bois' Philadelphia survey was based on the use of family, home, street, and institution, individual and domestic servant schedules (Du Bois, [1899] 1996).  The family schedule, for example, was used to collect information on each member of the household and included questions such as relationship to head of household, sex, age at nearest birthday, place of birth, length of residence in Philadelphia, ability to read and write, occupation and place of work.  Du Bois ([1899] 1996: 400-410) included a copy of these schedules in the first appendix.

    Booth also employed the use of schedules in his studies, although, due to the large number of volumes, many of the schedules were not included for each topic of study.  Nonetheless, Booth detailed the use of schedules for gathering data on Londoners with respect to occupation, family structure, and income (Booth 1891; Booth 1902).  The implementation of schedules allowed for methodical collection of data from each household and the individuals residing in those households.  Du Bois would later advocate that small area social studies could be used to provide more detailed information on topics that were not adequately addressed in the census data (Katz and Sugrue, 1998).  Similarly, Booth's detailed work on living conditions in London enabled him to advocate for the use of more social surveys to cover topics not adequately addressed in the existing governmental data sets (Fearon, 2001).

    The social surveys of Booth and Du Bois addressed similar topics.  Both Du Bois and Booth gathered detailed information on such topics as family structure, occupational opportunities, income, physical condition, and social class (Du Bois, [1899] 1996; Booth, 1891).  Du Bois went to great lengths to gather data on these topics in an effort to provide a broad picture of the extent of the structural problems faced by the African American inhabitants of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward.  By providing empirical data on such topics as the number of stories in a house, types of rooms in a house, marital status, type of occupation, number of persons in a home, education level, cleanliness, and physical descriptions of rooms, Du Bois was able to provide one of the earliest small area sociological data sets addressing African American quality of life in an urban setting.  Consequently, Du Bois has been regarded as one of the first sociologists to examine issues commonly addressed in such fields of urban sociology, demography, and urban ethnography (Katz and Sugrue, 1998).

    Du Bois' approach to the study of urban life in Philadelphia appears to draw heavily on the approach Booth adopted in his study of quality of life among London's poorer residents.  In discussing the social classes present in the Seventh Ward, Du Bois ([1899}, 1996: 171) provides a bar graph where he compares the size of the social classes resorted for the Seventh Ward to those Booth identified for London.  Booth (1891; 1902) also examined such issues as residents' ethnicity, length of residence, migration patterns, income, and levels of education, as well as the physical layout of homes, streets and districts in London.  Booth (1891) also employed a method of data collection known as the "double method" whereby persons were grouped on the basis of two demographic characteristics, such as residence and occupation.

    Booth and Du Bois also relied on the use of maps to convey relevant sociological information.  Booth was well-known for his use of maps to portray the regional distribution of demographic characteristics within districts, streets, and individual neighborhoods in London (Fearon, 2001).  For example, one of Booth's maps provided a spatial snapshot of income.  The geographic area that included a concentration of the lowest class of the vicious and criminal was denoted in black.  The very poor areas characterized by chronic want were presented in dark blue; whereas, the moderately poor areas were in light blue.  The mixed areas, in which some individuals lived comfortable and others in poverty were shown in purple, and the fairly comfortable or lower-middle class areas characterized by persons who maintained regular earnings were identified in pink.  The middle class or well-to-do areas were portrayed in red, and the upper-middle class and wealthy areas were presented in yellow (Fearon, 2001; Booth, 1891).

    In The Philadelphia Negro ([1899] 1996) Du Bois identified social classes on the basis of income.  These classes were the well-to-do, the laborers, the poor and the criminally-inclined.  The well-to-do included respectable families earning sufficient income.  Here housewives were not engaged in menial service of any kind, and the homes were well-kept and children were enrolled in school.  The working-class (laborers) enjoyed comfortable circumstances with a good home.  Work was relatively steady, and the youngest children were in school.  The poor included persons who were not earning enough to keep them continuously above want.  The lowest class included   criminals, prostitutes and loafers and was also known as the "submerged tenth."  In The Philadelphia Negro, Du Bois provided a nine page hand drawn map insert of the Seventh Ward.  Streets were labeled and residences and other buildings were identified.  Although it was not color coded, a legend was provided so that individual residences could be classified by the occupant's social class.

    While Booth's and Du Bois' studies of urban life provided descriptive, empirical data designed to specify social problems, critics have pointed out that Booth's and Du Bois' work lack concise measures for replication and that their categorizations were sometimes vague and unable to be validated.  At times these categorizations appeared to lump unrelated groups making it difficult to draw reliable conclusions (Gregg, 1998; Fearon, 2001).  For example, Du Bois ([1899] 1996: 207-208) combined categories such as unaffiliated and unknown in his data on religious identification.  Combining these categories created unnecessary ambiguity. 

Jane Addams and Hull-House

    A review of early sociological studies using a triangular methodological approach to the study of social problems must also address the work of Jane Addams and her associates at Hull- House.  Addams' most recognized collaborative work, Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895), used many of the same methodological techniques previously noted in the earlier work of Booth and was later also utilized by Du Bois.  More specifically, the Hull-House research was characterized by the use of an inductive research methodology, individualized methods of data collection, and the production of detailed, scaled maps of demographic characteristics (Barkin, 2000).

    Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895) was originally devised as an attempt by Addams and fellow researchers to document the social conditions prevalent in some of the Chicago neighborhoods during a time when concern for the social welfare of the poor and underprivileged was low (Holbrook, 1895).  Addams and her team, like Booth for London and later Du Bois for Philadelphia, used detailed charts, maps, and graphs to specify the stratification of residents of Chicago by social class.  In the Hull-House study, credit was given to Booth for originating methodologies useful in documenting poverty and its distribution.  It was also implied that such methods of mapping and statistical charting of demographic factors were measures that were on the forefront of sociological studies of that time (Holbrook, 1895).

    Like Booth and later Du Bois, Addams and her research team built an empirical data base relying on data already collected by official sources as well as her teams' collection of relevant ethnographic data and data from personal interviews and communications (Holbrook, 1895).  In the collection of essays found within Hull-House Maps and Papers, it is noted that the study included data from the United States Department of Labor and the Commission of Labor (Addams, 1895).  In the "Map Notes and Comments" section, written by Agnes Sinclair Holbrook, evidence of the use of an ethnographic approach was obvious.  Holbrook maintained that:

One can regard the unpaved and uncared for alleys as an especially threatening feature in this unpleasing picture; and yet between Polk and Ewing Streets, and also between Ewing and Forquer, where there are no alleys, the condition of the rear tenements in the most serious (Holbrook, 1895:6).
It was also noted that the methodologies used for data collection were tedious and time consuming.  This was especially the case with the personal interviews that were conducted to supplement and confirm official and ethnographic data.  The data obtained from quantitative and qualitative studies produced a body of evidence that could be employed to provide a basis for reform regarding public health and security issues (Holbrook, 1895).

    The Hull-House study also made use of schedules in data collection.  The data collected provided the foundation whereby the maps were created.  The two schedules used in the data collection efforts by the Hull-House researchers were a tenement schedule and a family schedule.  The tenement schedule included inquiries of physical residency and location, number of stories in the house, tenements in house, number of rooms in the tenement, number of families and persons in the tenement, weekly rent of tenement, ventilation, cleanliness, sanitation of tenement and outside environment, dimensions of the home, number of windows, and the number of occupants at night, as well as inquiries of the amenities in the tenement, such as the presence of a water closet, indoor bathroom, and yard size (Addams, 1895).  The family schedule included questions regarding the respondent's name, relationship to head of the family, sex, age at nearest birthday, race, number of household members, place of birth, years of residency, naturalization status, and educational level (Addams, 1895).  According to Holbrook (1895) the extensive use of schedules in data collection enabled these researchers to gather identical types of data from a large number of respondents, while still allowing for strict comparison of conditions and statistical analyses on an aggregate level.

    Like Booth and later Du Bois, Addams and her colleagues developed detailed maps of streets and residences which were used to display important demographic factors.  Two large-scale, colored maps were included in Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895).  One map revealed the spatial distribution of social classes based on an income (wage) measure, while the other map addressed nationality.  This later map was of particular interest due to a high level of migration into Chicago at the time.  The social class map made use of categories that were similar to those seen in the earlier work of Booth and the later work of Du Bois.  Addams' gradients were as follows: (1) black, denoted income levels of $5.00 per week or less, (2) dark blue, denoted income levels of $5.00 to $10.00 per week, (3) red, indicated income levels of $10.00 to $15.00 per week, (4) green, denoted income levels between $15.00 and $20.00 per week, (5) yellow, indicated income levels more than $20.00 per week, (6) purple, indicated unknown weekly levels of income, and (7) white, denoted the presence of brothels (Addams, 1895).

    The second map on nationalities documented regional variations in the concentrations of various ethnic groups in Chicago.  This map in particular resembled the maps of occupation and ethnic concentration created by Booth in his study of London's poor areas (Addams, Eaton and others, 1895; Booth, 1891).  Ethnicities identified in the Hull-House Maps and Papers (1895) by color code included (1) English speaking groups excluding Irish (white), (2) Irish (light green), (3) Greek (dark green), (4) Syrian (dark green, striped), (5) German (purple), (6) Dutch (purple, striped), (7) Russian (red), (8) Polish (red, striped), (9) Italian (dark blue), (10) Swiss (dark blue, striped), (11) French (brown), (12) French Canadian (brown, striped), (13) Chinese (orange), (14) Scandinavian (yellow, striped), (15) Colored (black), and (16) Arabian (orange, striped).  Tabular data on ethnicity, race, education and occupational opportunities were used to document the presence of inequality among racial and ethnic groups (Holbrook, 1895).  Addams' collaborative study of social class and racial and ethnic inequality was mirrored by Du Bois in his study of the quality of life of African American residents of Philadelphia's Seventh Ward. 


    Through their use of triangular methodologies, Charles Booth, Jane Addams and W.E.B. Du Bois made significant contributions to the development of scientific sociology.  Being associated with the Settlement and Progressive movements in the United States, the empirical focus of Addams' and Du Bois' work served to provide a basis for social change.  While not necessarily receiving the recognition they deserve in sociological circles, the pioneering social studies by Booth, Addams and Du Bois provided a foundation for further empirical studies in such areas as social problems, urban sociology, demography, racial and ethnic stratification, deviance and social policy. 


Addams, Jane. 1895.  Hull-House Maps and Papers. Boston: Thomas Y. Crowell.

Barkin, K. D. 2000. Berlin Days, 1892 1894: W. E. B. Du Bois and German Political Economy. Boundary 2, 27(3), 79-101. 

Bateman, B. W. 1956. Make a Righteous Number: Social Surveys, the Men, and Religion Forward Movement and Quantification in American Economics. History of Political Economy, 33, 57-85. 

Booth, C. (1891). Life and Labour of the People of London: Poverty Series, 1. London: Williams and Norgate. 

Booth, C. (1902). Life and Labour of the People of London: Poverty Series, 2. New York: The MacMillan Company. 

Du Bois, W. E. B. [1899] 1996. The Philadelphia Negro, introduction by Elijah Anderson.  Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Fearon, D. (2001). Charles Booth: Mapping London's poverty, 1885-1903.  Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science.  Retrieved November 28, 2007 from: 

Gregg, R. (1998). W. E. B. Du Bois and the Historical Enterprise.  In W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and the City: The Philadelphia Negro and Its Legacy, M.B. Katz and T.J. Sugrue, eds., pp 77-84. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Holbrook, A. S. 1895.  "Map Notes and Comments."  In Hull House Maps and Papers, Jane Addams, pp 3-28. Boston: Thomas Y. Crowell & Company.

Katz, M. B. and T.J. Sugrue. 1998. "Introduction: The context of The Philadelphia Negro."  In W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and the City: The Philadelphia Negro and Its Legacy, M.B. Katz and T.J. Sugrue, eds., pp 1-38. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press. 

Katznelson, I. 1999. "President's Address: Du Bois' Century." Social Science History 32(4): 459-474.

Mann, A. 1956.  "British Social Thought and American Reformers of the Progressive Era." The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, 42(4), 672-692. 

Martineau, Harriet.  1837.  Society in America.  New York: Saunders and Otley.

Schrager, C.D. 1996.  "Both Sides of the Veil: Race, Science, and Mysticism in W.E.B. Du Bois." American Quarterly 48(4): 551-586. 

 Return to Sociation Today Spring 2009 

©2009 by the North Carolina Sociological Association