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Chapter 7 Qualitative Methodology: The Case of Ethnography

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1 Chapter 7 Qualitative Methodology: The Case of Ethnography

2 To illustrate how qualitative data may be analysed.
AIMS To illustrate the relationship between verstehen and ethnography; To define ethnographic research in terms of a set of commitments articulated by its epistemological stance; To illustrate how ethnography has been used in business and management research; To demonstrate the choices ethnographic researchers have to make in the field regarding their research role. To illustrate how qualitative data may be analysed.

3 Ethnography Literally means the study (graphy) of races (ethno) - now more usually taken to mean the description of cultures; Derives from traditions in social anthropology; Research design in ethnography refers to: decisions which have to be taken in the course of fieldwork; the strategy adopted therefore depends largely upon the social context; therefore no ideal to which all ethnography should conform. Instead ethnography is characterized by the kind of intellectual effort it is (Geertz) - it has a set of commitments.

4 Commitments in Ethnography
That human action is grounded in the actor’s interpretation of the situation: (1) Difference between the subject matter of the social sciences and the subject matter of the natural sciences; (2) Human action has an internal logic (culture): Stimulus meaning response culture (3) Physical objects do not comprehend their own behaviour nor attach meaning to what is going on around them - their behaviour has no internal logic, rather the natural scientist has to impose an external logic upon it so as to explain it.

5 (4) Hence it is possible to explain the behaviour of physical objects in a causal fashion:
A causes B Stimulus Response (5) Because ethnographers see human action as purposeful and meaningful, rather than determined by social structures, the environment, inherent needs etc…, explanation lies in gaining access to how people interpret and attach meaning to their surroundings. This leads to the second ethnographic commitment ...

6 That there are always multiple perspectives:
Ethnographers need to avoid imposing their own external logic/rationality upon actors - avoid ethnocentricity; Need to comprehend social action in terms of the actor’s own terms of reference/perspective/rationality; E. Goffman (1961) Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates, Doubleday: New York. Therefore, ethnographers need to be INDUCTIVE - ground theory in observation.

7 Action in seen as indexical:
Meanings and interpretations are not fixed, rather they are generated through social interaction and may vary from social context to social context. Therefore there is an emphasis upon Naturalism ... “the social world should be studied in its ‘natural’ state, undisturbed by the researcher. Hence natural not artificial settings ... should be the primary source of data. The primary aim should be to describe what happens in the setting, how people see their own actions and those of others, and the context in which action takes place”. (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995: 6).. Devastating implications for organizational research.

8 An emphasis upon inductive data collection in natural settings:
Ethnographers seek to minimize their own impact upon any research setting so as to observe social processes as they naturally occur - therefore need to - minimize reactivity - remain internally reflexive. Ecological Validity: “Do our instruments capture the daily life conditions, opinions, values, attitudes, and knowledge base of those we study as expressed in their natural habitat?” (Cicourel, 1982: 15) Cicourel, A.V. (1982) Interviews Surveys and the Problem of Ecological Validity, The American Sociologist, 17:

9 Methodological options and the Pursuit of Ethnographic Commitments
Ethnography is not one single method for collecting data but a battery of methods that enable observation of the behaviour of groups and individuals in their natural settings. It entails the following options: Participant Vs non-participant observation; Covert Vs overt observation; Direct Vs indirect observation; Structured Vs unstructured observation; Methods of recording.

10 Participant Vs non-participant observation;
A continuum that varies from complete immersion as a full participant to complete separation as a spectator. Participant observation: involves sharing the life and activities of a group as intimately as possible, to the extent of developing the insider’s view - not just seeing what is happening but sharing it too. Can be either exploratory in nature, so as to describe a situation, or it can be used to generate theory ... e.g. Lupton, T. (1963) On the shop floor, Oxford: Pergamon.

11 Participant Observation and Organizations.
THE FRONT STAGE (GOFFMAN). ESPOUSED THEORIES (ARGYRIS). THE FORMAL ORGANIZATION FRONTS, LIES AND EVASIONS (DOUGLAS) THE INFORMAL ORGANIZATION THEORIES -IN-USE (ARGYRIS). THE BACKSTAGE (GOFFMAN). Goffman, E. (1969). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Argyris, C., Putnam, R. and Smith D.M. (1985) Action Science: Concepts, Methods and skills for Research and Intervention, San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass. Douglas, J.D. (1976) Investigative Social Research, London: Sage.

12 major strength - good at getting access to what people actually do in organizations, rather than what they claim to do, or what they officially ought to do. but danger of “going native”. Non-participant observation: - where the researcher does not interact with the subject at all - just observes - e.g. through a two-way mirror. Advantage - reactivity reduced since it is less likely that the observer’s presence will affect the situation being studied. But danger of ethnocentricity increased ... multiple perspectives not taken into account/under-explored. e.g. cargo cults.

13 Implications Need for balance between being an insider and outsider - observation and participation during fieldwork:- Need to access multiple perspectives by being accepted whilst avoiding over-rapport with organizational members; Treat organizational settings as “anthropologically strange”; be involved but maintain a degree of social and intellectual distance so as to preserve analytical space (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995: 115). Hence need for the ethnographer to be: - internally reflexive - critical scrutiny of impact of field role upon research setting; - provide a traceable audit trail - to establish credibility of account.

14 Covert Vs overt observation
Whether or not the research subjects know, or are aware of the presence of the ethnographer; or whether the true purpose of the research is hidden from subjects. e.g. - Lupton’s On the Shopfloor - overt, but research purpose hidden. - Roy’s Banana time - covert - research role hidden.

15 Two main reasons for using covert research:
(1) Enhances naturalism; (2) Impossible to get access otherwise. but.... (1) People still react to researcher as a person; (2 Limits movement, and organizational role, of the researcher because you are trying to pass self off as a “normal” member with a particular organizational role and status; (3) Ethical issues; (4) Cover being blown ...

16 Direct vs indirect observation
Ethnographers usually use both - but usually rely primarily on direct observation ... involves the observer directly watching and listening to and recording the actions of others ... involves ... sampling settings, people, events, time etc. indirect observation - where the researcher has not directly witnessed the event - but it is reported to the researcher via key informants; documents - e.g. correspondence; diaries, organizational files etc. e.g. Ashworth’s “The Sociology of Trench Warfare”. Need to be cautious about interpreting the significance of data. Ashworth, A. E. (1968) The Sociology of Trench Warfare , The British Journal of Sociology, XIX (4):

17 Structured vs unstructured observation
Developing some kind of structure before, and/or during, and/or after, the observation period into which observations are fixed. Influences what, when, how, and how often people, social settings, etc. are observed; Key influences upon this decision: aims of the research - inductive theory development or cultural description; structures tend to emerge as observer learns about what is going on; stage of the research - progressive focusing.

18 Methods of recording How to record:
Choices range from note taking, keeping a diary, semi-structured questionnaires, observation schedules and inventories, tape-recording, videoing, etc.; Choices much depend on prior decisions about methodological options and crucially the stage at which your research is at; Ethnographic research generates vast amounts of qualitative data - hence choice needs to take into account how the data is to be analyzed. What to record: What you need to record depends upon the focus/aims of research and stage at which research is at.

19 Qualitative Data Analysis
Many practices & methods of analysis All linked by central concern with transforming & interpreting qualitative data - in a rigorous and scholarly way in order to capture the complexities of the social worlds we seek to understand. Varieties of perspective Not a single type of qualitative data. Field notes, interview transcripts, transcribed recordings of naturally occurring interaction, documents, pictures & other graphic representations. No single way of approaching these materials, but all Qualitative data analysis deals with meaningful talk & action

20 Process of Data Analysis
Process of analysis should not be seen as a distinct stage of research - it is a reflexive activity that should inform data collection, writing, further data collection; it is not the last phase of the research process, it should be seen as part of the research design & data collection. Data handling - refers to tasks of coding, sorting, retrieving & manipulating data (field notes/transcripts). Interpretation - analysis is essentially imaginative & speculative reconstruction of the social worlds - emphasizing uniqueness, rather than regularities.

21 Data Analysis following Miles & Huberman (1994)
Data reduction - selection & condensation data reduced in anticipatory ways - data summarized, coded, broken down into themes, categories, etc. Data display ways in which reduced data are displayed in diagrammatic, pictorial or visual forms to show what data implies. Conclusion drawing & verification displayed data are interpreted & meaning is drawn look for comparative & contrasting cases, noting & exploring themes, patterns & regularities, & using metaphors In order to describe & explain qualitative data - necessary to work toward a set of analytical categories that are conceptually specified.

22 Wolcott (1994) Transforming data by
Dey (1993) describing - context of action, intentions of social actors & processes in which social action is embedded Classifying - give meaning by assigning bits of data to codes & themes Connecting - categorized or coded data analyzed in terms of patterns & connections that emerge Wolcott (1994) Transforming data by Description - what is going on, Analysis - expand & extend descriptive account - search for themes & patterns from the data Interpretation - offer own account of what is going on - understanding & explanation is sought Analysis is on the whole an inductive data-led activity

23 Grounded Theory (after Glaser & Strauss, 1967)
Interpretative method that shares common philosophy of phenomenology - i.e. methods used to describe the world of the person(s) under study Start to collect the data and then explore them to see which themes or issues to follow up and concentrate on Strategy initially related to exploratory purpose - need to analyse data as they are collected & develop a conceptual framework to guide subsequent work Purpose of grounded theory is to build theory that is faithful to and which illuminates the area under investigation (Hussey & Hussey, 1997) Theoretical framework is developed by researcher alternating between inductive and deductive thought

24 Grounded Theory (cont’d)
First, theory is inductively generated from observations on the data; Next, form hypotheses which are translated into predictions, often by process of deduction & logic; Then reverting to inductive approach, tentative hypotheses are tested with existing or new data (cases); Deductive suggestions refuted, supported or modified, these then used to form new hypotheses to investigate more fully Inductive/deductive approach and constant reference to data helps to ground the theory Strauss & Corbin (1990) theory emerges from process of data collection & analysis do not commence study with a defined theoretical framework identify relationships between data and develop questions and hypotheses to test these Do need to commence this strategy with a clear research purpose

25 Analytical Induction in order to inject more rigour into inductive or grounded approaches, and to get to a more generalizable position, many researchers use versions of Denzin’s (1970) scheme of analytic induction rough description of problem to be explained is formulated hypothetical explanation of the problem is formulated one case is studied in light of the hypothesis / model, objective is to determine if hypothesis fits the facts in that case if hypothesis does not fit the facts - the hypothesis is reformulated or the problem to be explained is redefined so that the case is excluded practical certainty may be obtained after a small number of cases have been examined - discovery of negative cases disproves the explanation & requires a reformulation steps 2-5 are repeated until a universal relationship is established Johnson, P. (1998) Analytical Induction. In Symon & Cassell, Qualitative methods and analysis in organizational research

26 Data Analysis, Reporting & Interpretation
Look for empirical assertions supported by the data - use narrative & quotations of participants to support your assertions Look for points of conflict, tension & contradiction: exposing these yields information & insight Include interpretative commentary related to the data Include a theoretical discussion & relate your data to the theory that guided your study Develop a model of what occurred in your study - helps reader to make sense of the data & follow your arguments Design your study to understand - main aim is understanding the social reality rather than to prove something State clearly any ethical issues arising in the study Include a description of your role as the researcher as part of the analysis & history of the investigation

27 Conclusions: Main Elements of an Analysis of Qualitative Data (Morse, 1994)
Comprehending full understanding of the setting, culture & study topic before research begins Synthesising drawing together of different themes from the research and forming them into new integrated patterns Theorising constant development and manipulation of malleable theoretical schemes until the ‘best’ theoretical scheme is developed Recontextualising process of generalisation so that the emerging theory can be applied to other settings and populations

28 Qualitative Research Advantages vs Disadvantages
Focuses upon the subjective, cultural aspects of organizations; Avoids research findings being artefacts of the method being used; When rigorously done, enables greater understanding of organizational processes and events; Allows focus upon hidden aspects of organizational life; Clarifies role of the researcher in producing organizational accounts. Micro level of analysis ??? Not easily replicable; The researcher not detached from what is being studied; Getting access can be very difficult; Entails long periods in the field; Ethnographers experience difficult social pressures in the field and requires them to exercise considerable social skill; Generates vast amounts of qualitative data that can be very difficult to analyze; Open to unfair attack by deductive quantitative mainstream.

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