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1 Researching Deviant/Criminal Groups Qualitative Research 1.General Comments 2.Participant Observation 3.Ethics: Laud Humphreys 4.Pros/Cons of PO.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Researching Deviant/Criminal Groups Qualitative Research 1.General Comments 2.Participant Observation 3.Ethics: Laud Humphreys 4.Pros/Cons of PO."— Presentation transcript:

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2 1 Researching Deviant/Criminal Groups Qualitative Research 1.General Comments 2.Participant Observation 3.Ethics: Laud Humphreys 4.Pros/Cons of PO

3 2 1. Qual. Research Different methods: fieldwork, PO, unstructured interviews, text analysis, oral history, etc. Qualitative approach argues: Humans not mice or atoms Actions have meanings, purposes; different interpretations Study in context/natural setting More detailed knowledge of research groups

4 3 1. Qual Research Early exponents: Anthropology: e.g. Malinowski (1920s) - months in the field Sociology: Chicago School (1920s +) - study diverse groups in setting e.g. tramps, dancers – deviants especially

5 4 2. Participant Observation Join group, participate in activities Step back: observe, record, analyse PO with deviant or criminal groups that have limited power Powerful prevent entry Early work challenged myths about poor eg Whyte s Boston slum

6 5 2. PO - Getting In Are you an insider? e.g. Becker, jazz and marijuana Polsky and pool hustlers Can you find research group (the mafia?) Constantly (re)negotiate entry - Armstrong (1993) and football hooligans Access gatekeepers Snowball research group (Polsky)

7 6 2. PO - Blending In Blend in, build rapport, win trust Similar background & habits help e.g. Hobbs - criminals and drinking Polsky: keep quiet early on, avoid dumb questions

8 7 2. Doing PO Research criminal group? Dont pretend to join Draw lines re personal involvement (Polsky) Record info: avoid tapes. Take notes next day, or during breaks Watch for quid pro quo - help out research group

9 8 2. PO Dangers? - Going Native Take on research groups culture, forget sociological viewpoint e.g. fights, disorderly behaviour in pubs (e.g. Parker 1974) Criticisms by other, armchair academics BUT: hard to go native if not original member

10 9 3. Research Ethics Most research can be overt - in the open BSA - ethical guidelines Seek informed consent - group understands, accepts your project Covert research - spy on group - might be practical - can it be justified?

11 10 3. Laud Humphreys - Tearoom Trade LH - watch-queen role (lookout/voyeur) Covert: open researcher wouldnt win trust Noted car reg of participants; got names and addresses Year later - disguised (not recognised), interviewed around 100 participants Homosexual male encounters in public toilets (tearooms)

12 11 3. LH - Ethical Problems? LH praised - new light on unusual activity HAD to be covert? Criticisms: no informed consent deceived participants probably impossible today

13 12 4. Wider Criticisms of PO 1. Sample groups too small for generalizations e.g. one criminal gang, not variety 2. Lot of crime/deviance stays hidden or cant be reported 3. Too subjective - researchers own interpretation 4. Underplays structural issues? e.g. class 5. Researcher influences behaviour

14 13 4. Benefits of PO Richness, complexity of social life Tells us more about little-known groups Deviant meanings and identities – how intense, rationalized, relate to normal? Detailed findings CAN build in structural issues e.g. Birmingham School on youth, class and subcultures Enjoyable / memorable research experience - but dont try to go native


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