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Chapter 11.docx

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Margaret Gassanov

Chapter 11: Qualitative Field Research - Field research more typically yields qualitative data: observations not easily reduced to numbers Topics Appropriate to Qualitative Field Research - Field research is esp. appropriate to the study of those attitudes and behaviours best understood within their natural setting, as opposed to the somewhat artificial settings of experiments and surveys - Field research is well suited to the study of social processes over time - Several elements of social life appropriate to field research: o Practices o Episodes o Encounters o Roles and social types o Social and personal relationships o Groups and cliques o Organizations o Settlements and habitats o Subcultures and lifestyle - Field research offers the advantage of probing social life in its natural habitat Methodological Terms in Qualitative Field Research - Phenomenology is a term associated with idea that reality is socially constructed o This perspective is prominent in qualitative research and emphasizes attention to the worldview of the people being observed and or interviewed o A major aim is to discover subjects’ experiences and how subjects make sense of them Ethnography and Participant Observation - Ethnography: varies somewhat in its use by researchers. It generally refers to a report on social life that focuses on detailed and accurate description rather than explanation. For some it refers also to data collected in the natural settings, while for others it refers to naturalistic observations and holistic understandings of culture or subcultures - Naturalism: an approach to field research based on assumption that an objective social reality exists and can be observed and reported accurately - Ethnography is historically associated with anthropology while participant observation has often been linked to sociology - Ethnography also refers to the written report of the research produced from the field - Both terms connote researchers immersing themselves in a social setting and gathering data that lends itself to interpretation Case Study - Case study: a focused, detailed investigation of a single instance, of some social phenomenon like a town, an industry, a community, an organization, or a person - a case may refer to any unit of social life - refers to design of a research study - concerns what unit the researcher will focus on not how the data will be gathered - may be used in both qualitative and quantitative research - may be combined with any number of methods of collecting data - chief purpose of a case study is to focus on specificities of the case, providing rich, detailed data - sometimes a case study is used as a preliminary to a more elaborate study of many instances –in other words, it is exploratory - the goal is often descriptive too - in each study the researchers focused on a single unit of a large possible set, spending long periods of time becoming intimately familiar with the details and nuances of their case Considerations in Qualitative Field Research The Various Roles of the Observer - the complete participant, may be genuine participant in what he or she is studying (for ex. A participant in a campus demonstration) or may pretend to be a genuine participant - If acting as complete participant, you let people see you only as a participant not as a researcher - Reactivity: a difficulty that might arise when subjects react to the fact of being studied, therefore altering their behaviour from what it would have been normally - first they might expel the researcher - second they might modify their speech and behaviour to appear more “respectable” than would otherwise be the case - third, the social process itself might be radically changed - you could participate fully with the group under study but make it clear that you were also undertaking research o however people being studied may shift much of their attention to the research project rather than focus on natural social process, making the process being observed no longer typical o or you yourself may come to identify too much with the interests and viewpoints of the participants o you may begin to “go native” and lose much of your scientific attachment - complete observer studies social process without becoming a part of it in any way but she or he is also less likely to develop a full appreciation of what’s being studied; observations may be more sketchy and transitory - the “Martian”: some social scientists adopt this degree of separation when observing cultures or social classes different from their own o researcher can vary the amount of time spend in the setting being observed: you can be a full-time presence on scene or just show up now and then o you can focus your attention on a limited aspect of social setting or seek to observe all of it –framing an appropriate role to match your aims Relation to Subjects - social scientists have tended to emphasize importance of “objectivity” in such matters - “insider understanding”: recognize benefits gained by immersing themselves in points of view they are studying - Adopting an alien pov is an uncomfortable prospect for most people. It’s often hard enough simply to learn about views that seem strange to you; you at times may find it hard just to tolerate certain views - Symbolic realism: the need for social researchers to treat the beliefs they study as worthy of respect rather than as objects of ridicule - When you become deeply involved in the lives of the people you’re studying, you’re likely to be moved by their personal problems and crises An Illustration of Qualitative Field Research Various Frameworks for Qualitative Field Research: Posing and Solving Puzzles - Alternatives concern the framework of the study: what puzzles (research questions) should be posed and how to solve them Grounded Theory - Grounded theory: an inductive approach to social research that attempts to derive theory form an analysis of the patterns, themes, and common categories discovered in observational data. This differs from hypothesis testi
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