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November 7,2013-3N06 LectureNote.doc
November 7,2013-3N06 LectureNote.doc

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McMaster University
Political Science
Todd Alway

November 7 , 2013 Political Science 3N06 Political Science 3N06 2013 Lecture 9a Unobtrusive methods Common problem to all of the previous methods that were looked at; all of the methods require the researcher to interact, and every single one of those methods do not allow us to view the phenomenon from the outside; - All of the methods that we have looked at thus far (experiment, surveys, interviews, field work) require an intrusion into the lives of those that we want to observe - This intrusion can (to a greater or lesser degree) affect what we observe - There are problems of reactivity o Interviewing – different sorts of reactivity;  Also reactionary affects associated with the physical characteristics of the researcher; • Question; gender; ethnicity; etc. • Might prompt the subject to say things that they would not say in another situation; METHOD – UNOBTRUSTIVE RESEARCH - However, there are research methods that can avoid inducing these types of reactivity effects - Methods that study society indirectly or unobtrusively o Unobtrusive research - Unobtrusive research studies the residues of human activity – archives, both physical and literary o Study by looking at the traces; things that have been left behind; study the traces and get all kinds of meaningful information; o Do not just have to observe people directly to understand people; can look at the archives of human existence;  What are literary archives? Diaries, etc.  All kinds of traces that you can look at which offer you insight into a group; look at family photos as they’ve gone through times to understand patriarchy and family order;  Pottery produced (Greek vases)  All kinds of traces that can be analyzed to get a sense of the way in which a given group looked at the world; - This can provide data that is non-reactive (or at least less-reactive) since a) it was not produced with you or your research purposes in mind, and b) it took place before you arrived on the scene LIMITATIONS TO THE DATA Of course there are some limitations to the data that must be born in mind In the first place, how representative are the traces with respect to the phenomenon/group/population that you are interested in? o Can never be certain; o Example; History; everything that has happened now and then there is small history; things that get left behind are left behind in a different way; (1) SELECTIVE DEPOSIT – not everyone is equally able to place material into the archive o Of ALL that lived, not everyone gets the same opportunity; o Systematic bias;  E.G social attitudes in the renaissance; only certain people were literate and only those people were able to inscribe their history  E.G concerns of women were not treated the same way as men; 1 November 7 , 2013 Political Science 3N06  What sorts of groups and individuals have had the opportunity to get their things in the archive; o Oral history as an approach to overcoming elements of this? (2) Selective Survival – only certain parts of the past are likely to survive into the present o This is often a product of differences in power o The records of the powerful are more likely to be archived in a way ensuring their survival o Certain groups have their effect on history last a little bit longer; th o What sorts of grave markers have survived? 17 century people in Canada, only a special group of people have survived; - Not everyone gets recorded in the archive of history the same way - If you are relying on any type of archived data source you should consider selective deposit and selective survival - How has differential access to the archive of history (even recent history) affected/biased your data ORAL HISTORY o There is a continuity and we see earlier stories told again an
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