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Chapter 13

Research Methods - Chapter 13.doc

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Western University
Sociology 2206A/B
Neil Holt

Research Methods Chapter 13: Field Research [Introduction] - also called ETHNOGRAPHY or PARTICIPANT-OBSERVATION RESEARCH - Qualitative- researcher directly observes and participates in small scale settings - No math or complicated stats – PEOPLE WATCHING - Meeting new people and finding out what they’re all about Research Questions Appropriate for Field Research - Survey and Experiments are not practical - People in field-setting are “MEMBERS" Ethnography and Etnomethodology - Build on social constructionist perspective - Ethnography: means describing a culture and understanding another way of life from the native point of view; Cultural knowledge - Explicit Knowledge: includes a social event - Tacit Knowledge: includes the unspoken cultural norm for the proper distance to stand from others - Ethnomethodology: combines theory, philosophy and method; study of commonsense knowledge - Assumes social meaning is fragile and fluid, not fixed - Analyze language - Examine ordinary social interaction [Logic of Field Research] What is Field Research? - Based on Naturalism: observing ordinary events in natural settings, not in invented settings - Goal is to examine social meanings and perspectives - Usually conducted by a single team – sometimes teams Steps in Field Research Project - Flexibility: researchers rarely follow rigid steps - Getting Organized in Beginning: human and personal factors play huge role, listening and looking, reading literature about methodology, general topic NOT specific hypothesis, disposes of preconceptions, and self knowledge [Choosing a Site/Gaining Access] Selecting a Site/Entering - Field Site: research on a setting; Field site and Question bound together - Case: social relationship or activity - 3 relevant factors when choosing a site: 1. Richness of data 2. Unfamiliarity 3. Suitability Research Methods Chapter 13: Field Research - Researchers ascriptive characteristics can limit/enhance access - Legal barriers, physical access, political barriers - Field researchers’ role depending on negotiations with members - Obviously – less negotiation = less access = fewer findings - Semi-Participant: given to researchers who participate to some extent with activities of the group – but don’t immerse themselves completely - Gatekeeper: someone with authority to control access to a site; can shape direction of research - Strategy to enter: - Planning, - Negotiation - Disclosure - Covert Observer: no one in field knows research is taking place - Overt Observer: where everyone knows the details of the research project - Presentation of self is key in build rapport - Researcher is instrument: - Implication 1 – puts pressure on researcher to be aware and alert to everything - Implication 2 – personal consequences; involving relationships and feelings - Ethnocentricism – “Attitude of Strangers” – questioning and noticing ordinary details or looking at ordinary through the eyes of a stranger - Charm and trust help understand inner feelings of others [Relations in the Field] - Sometimes adopt pre-existing roles - Sometimes creates a new role in the environment - Gender and physical appearance limit role chosen - Females have more difficulty in roles perceived to be more dangerous - New researchers may face embarrassment
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