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SOAN 2120 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Selection Bias, Leading Question, Convenience Sampling

Sociology and Anthropology
Course Code
SOAN 2120
David Walters
Study Guide

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SOAN 2120 Midterm 2 Review Textbook
Chapter 6: Field Research
Ethnography and ethnomethodology
- Ethnography an approach to field research that emphasizes providing a very detailed
description of a different culture from the viewpoint of an insider in that culture to permit a
greater understanding of it
- Ethno means people/folk and graphy refers to describing something
- Ethnography is often considered a methodology rather than a method
- Methodology a collection of data collection and analysis approaches that are linked
together through an overarching theoretical orientation
- Cultural knowledge includes explicit (what we know and talk about) and tacit knowledge
(what we rarely acknowledge)
- Naturalism the principle that researchers should examine events as they occur in natural,
everyday, ongoing social settings
Steps in field research
1. Preparing, reading, and defocusing
- Human and personal factors are crucial in field research
- Before entering the field, a researcher practices observing the ordinary details of situations
and writing them down
- Researchers will find any publishing or journal/diary recordings that relate to the field of
2. Selecting a field site and gaining access to it
- Field site the one or more natural locations where a researcher conducts field research
- Choosing a field site is not the same thing as focusing on a case for a case study
- A case is a social relationship or activity; it can extend beyond the boundaries of the site and
have links to other social settings
- A researcher picks a site then identifies cases to study within it
- There are 3 relevant factors when choosing a field site:
i) Richness of data some sites are more likely to produce rich data than others
ii) Unfamiliarity researchers should choose an unfamiliar setting. It is easier to see
cultural events and social relations in a new site
iii) Suitability
3. Entering the Field and Establishing Social Relations with Members
- Once a site has been picked, the researcher needs to consider the appropriate level of
involvement and a strategy for entering the field
- Level of involvement field roles can be arranged on a continuum by the degree of
detachment or involvement a researcher has with members
- At one extreme is a complete observer and at the other is the complete participant
- Many move from observer to semi-participant levels with more time in the field
- Complete observer when a researcher only observes the study group without
participating in their activities
o Reseahe’s ole is liited to siple oseatio ithout a patiipatio
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o This type of role reduces the time needed for acceptance, makes over-rapport less
of an issue , and can sometimes help members open up
- Complete participant when a researcher fully participates in all aspects of the study
goup’s atiities as though a ee of the goup
o A eseahe’s epots a e uestioed eause of how close they became to the
- Reseahes tpiall adopt a iddle oad appoah
- Semi-participant when a researcher participates to some degree in group activities, but
not as much as a full member, they give priority to their role as a researcher
- Strategy for entering entering a field site requires having a flexible strategy or plan of
action, negotiating access and relations with members, and deciding how much to disclose
about the research to field members or gatekeepers
- Gatekeeper someone with the formal or informal authority to control access to a site (i.e.
gang leader, coach, business owner, etc.)
- Informal public areas rarely have gatekeepers; however, formal organizations have
authorities from whom permission must be obtained
- Social relations are negotiated and formed throughout the process of fieldwork
- Deviant groups and elites often require social negotiations for gaining access
o To gain access for deviant subcultures, researchers have used contacts from the
eseahe’s private lives, gone to social welfare or law enforcement agencies where
the deviants are processed, advertised for volunteers, offered service in exchange
for access, or gone to a location where deviants hang out and join a group
- A researcher must decide how much to reveal about their lives to the group being studied
- Disclosing their personal lives can build trust and close relationships, but the researcher
loses privacy, and they need to ensure that the focus remains on the field of study
- Disclosure ranges on a continuum:
o Covert observer a researcher who is secretly studying a group without the group
members knowing they are being studied
o Overt observer a researcher who is studying he group members with their full
4. Adopting a Social Role and Learning the Ropes
- Presentation of self sends a symbolic message. Researcher must decide how they should
dress in the field. A researcher should not mimic the group they are studying but should also
not dress so differently that they stand out.
- Researcher as instrument the researcher is the instrument for measuring field data which
has two implications:
i) Puts pressure on the researcher to be alert and sensitive to what happens in the
field and to be disciplined about recording data
ii) There are personal consequences
- An attitude of strangeness field research in familiar surroundings is difficult because of a
tendency to be blinded by the familiar
- Studying other cultures has 2 benefits:
i) It makes it easier to see cultural elements
ii) It facilitates self-discovery
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o Defined eseahes stud a field site  etall adjustig to see it fo the fist
time or as an outsider
- Building a Rapport a field researcher builds rapport by getting along with members in the
- Charm and trust a field researcher needs social skills and personal charm to build rapport
o Having these qualities help build trust
- Understanding rapport helps field researchers understand members, but understanding
is a precondition for greater depth, not an end in itself
- Oe a eseahe attais a udestadig of the ee’s poit of ie, the et step is
to lea ho to at ad thik i the ee’s pespetie
Maintaining relationships
- Go native when a researcher gets overly involved, loses all distance or objectivity, and
becomes like the people being studied
- Normalize social research techniques in field research used by researchers to make the
people being studied feel more comfortable with the research process and to help them
aept the eseahe’s pesee
- Social Relations over time a researcher develops and modifies social relationships
- Early in a project a researcher does not make close relationships because circumstances may
- A field researcher must be bale to break or withdraw from relationships as well
- A field researcher must make strong relationships with ley informants
o Key informants member of a group who has firsthand information about a
community and can reliably report on their activities
- The ideal key informant has 4 characteristics:
i) The key informant is very familiar with the culture and is in a position to witness
significant events. He or she lives and breathes the culture and engages in routines
in the setting without thinking about them
ii) The individual is currently involved in the culture the researcher is trying to
understand. Ex-members may provide useful insights, but the longer they have been
away from direct involvement, the more likely it is that they have reconstructed
their recollections
iii) The person can spend time with the researcher. Interviewing may take many hours,
and some members are simply not available for extensive interviewing
iv) Nonanalytical individuals make better informants. A nonanalytical informant is
familiar with and uses native folk theory or pragmatic common sense. This is in
contrast to the analytic member, who pre-analyzes the setting, using categories
from the media or education
- Exchange relationships relationships that develop in the field, in which small tokens or
favours, including deference and respect, are exchanged
o Helps when access to sensitive issues is limited
- Appearance of interest a technique in field research in which researchers maintain
relations in a field site by pretending to be interested and excited by the activities of those
studied, even though they are actually uninterested or very bored
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