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Chapter 10 Qualitative Field Research. Chapter Outline Introduction Topics Appropriate to Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research.

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Presentation on theme: "Chapter 10 Qualitative Field Research. Chapter Outline Introduction Topics Appropriate to Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chapter 10 Qualitative Field Research

2 Chapter Outline Introduction Topics Appropriate to Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research Some Qualitative Field Research Paradigms

3 Chapter Outline Conducting Qualitative Field Research Strengths and Weaknesses or Qualitative Field Research Research Ethics in Qualitative Field Research

4 INTRODUCTION REMEMBER: What people say they would or do---is not always what they would actually do! (E.G., Babbie’s—public helping) FIELD RESEARCH: Has advantage of probing social life in its natural habitat. (All Research Designs have purpose.)

5 TOPICS FOR FIELD RESEARCH Field Research: Obtains data either by observation or interview. FR—Provides more indepth data. FR—Provides qualitative data. FR—Attempts to understand (indepth) SOCIAL LIFE! FR—No Hypotheses FR—Comprehensive/Processual (Inductive and Deductive Dialectic)

6 FIELD RESEARCH STUDIES SOCIAL PROCESS Study occurs in natural setting. See things/learn things you would miss with surveys or experiments. E.G., Charismatic Study E.G., Black Like Me E.G., Pat Moore’s Aging Study

7 ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL LIFE APPROPRIATE TO FIELD RESEARCH Practices: talking, reading a book Episodes: divorce, crime, illness Encounters: people meeting and interacting Role: occupations, family roles Relationships: friendships, family

8 ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL LIFE APPROPRIATE TO FIELD RESEARCH Groups: cliques, teams, work groups Organizations: hospitals, schools Settlements: neighborhoods, ghettoes Social worlds: "wall street", "the sports world“ Lifestyles (subcultures): urban, homeless

9 THOMPSON ON FIELD RESEARCH Qualitative Research Designs—use systematic observation and interviews. Focus is on the meanings and interpretations people give their social actions.

10 THOMPSON E.G., SATANISM STUDY Kathleen Lowney spent 5 years doing ethnographic field research on a satanic adolescent subculture in Southern community On outskirts of town (Friday night) The Coven (self-appointed name) meet for weekly rituals.

11 SATAN STUDY CONT. Began interviewing members of the press, local law enforcement officials, & school administrators She read popular and academic books on Satanism She developed a list of whom she thought was involved

12 STUDY CONT... She observed from a distance and later began casual conversations, followed up with interviews Coven had 35 members—all white—all middle or upper middle class—33% female/female was leader Analysis—members were not mentally ill. Nor did they engage in serious criminal activity.

13 STUDY CONT... Did participate in underage drinking, minor vandalism, and other violations typical kids do. Why did they join—membership functions included challenging the status quo (cheerleaders, sports, Christian values) Provided social clique where members got status, recognition, and social identity.

14 SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS Roles of Observer (continuum) Participant……………………….Observer Complete…………………………...Partial Major Concern---reactivity—the problem that subjects may react to the being studied—altering normal behavior. Major Concern—researcher may affect group process.

15 MORE CONSIDERATIONS Deception---sometimes you really have to do this. Why?? Only deceive subjects when you really believe that the data will be more reliable and valid. Researcher can vary participant and observer, as well as time spent with the group.

16 RELATIONS TO SUBJECTS Robert Bellah---symbolic realism—term indicating social researchers should treat the beliefs they study as worthy of respect. Yet—you must be objective and avoid going too native! Remember—where you interview can affect reponses. (E.G., Homeless example)

17 FIELD RESEARCH PARADIGMS—1) Naturalism Naturalism—1930s, Chicago School of Sociology. We go out there and study what “really is.” E.G., William F. Whyte—Street Corner Society—did ethnography (detailed/accurate description)— studies street gangs.

18 2) ETHNOMETHODOLOGY Study of social life that focuses on discovery of implicitly, unspoken assumptions/agreements. Uses breeching experiments—to reveal their existence.

19 3) GROUNDED THEORY Inductive Approach—study social life to generate a theory from the observations. (3 things must do) 1) Periodically step back and ask— What is going on here? 2) Maintain Skepticism 3) Follow research procedures

20 4) CASE STUDIES Focus on one or a few cases of some phenomenon—village, gang, family. Extended Case Method—used to alter theories. Lay out what expect to find and compare.

21 5) INSTITUTIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY Dorothy Smith developed this—personal experiences of individuals are used to reveal power relationships in institutions. Look at the personal experiences now of any oppressed group—to uncover institutional discrimination and other practices.

22 6) PARTICIPATORY ACTION RESEARCH The people being studied are given control over the purpose/procedures of the research. Researcher serves as a resource— subjects define their problems, their remedies, and take the lead in the research that will help them.

23 PREPARING FOR FIELD WORK Fill in your knowledge of the subject—with library research. Discuss the group you plan to research with an informant. Develop an identity with the people to be studied. Realize that your initial contact with the group can influence your observations.

24 SEVEN STAGES OF INTERVIEWING Qualitative Interviewing—natural, easy interaction with researcher and subject. (Conversational Flow) Thematizing—clarifying purpose Design—laying out process (ethics) Interviewing—actual interviews Transcribing—hardest work ever

25 SEVEN STAGES OF INTERVIEWING cont... 5.Analyzing—determining—what is the meaning of this information? 6.Verifying and checking facts—check reliability and validity of material 7.Reporting—Tell others what you found

26 ADVANTAGES OF FOCUS GROUPS Socially oriented research method (12-15 people) (Group Interviewing) Flexible High face validity Speedy results Low in cost

27 DISADVANTAGES OF FOCUS GROUPS Less control than individual interviews. Data can be difficult to analyze. Moderators must be skilled.

28 DISADVANTAGES OF FOCUS GROUPS cont... Difference between groups can be troublesome. Groups are difficult to assemble. Discussion must be conducted in a conducive environment.

29 GUIDELINES - TAKING RESEARCH NOTES Don’t trust your memory. Take notes while you observe. Take sketchy notes in the field and rewrite them later, filling in the details. Get observations/interpretations written down.

30 GUIDELINES - TAKING RESEARCH NOTES cont. Record everything. Things that don't seem important may turn out to be significant. Realize that most of your field notes will not be reflected in your final project.

31 STRENGTHS OF FIELD RESEARCH Permits a great depth of understanding. Flexibility - research may be modified at any time. Inexpensive Has more validity than surveys or experiments.

32 WEAKNESSES OF FIELD RESEARCH Qualitative and not appropriate for statistical descriptions of populations. Has potential problems with reliability since field research methods are often personal.

33 IS IT ETHICAL? To talk to people when they don't know you will be recording their words? To get information for your own purposes from people you hate? To see a severe need for help and not respond to it directly?

34 IS IT ETHICAL? Cont... To be in a situation but not commit yourself wholeheartedly to it? To be strategic in your relations with others? To take sides or avoid taking sides in a factionalized situation?

35 IS IT ETHICAL? Cont... To "pay" people with tradeoffs for access to their lives and minds? To "use" people as allies or informants in order to gain entrée to other people or to elusive understandings?


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