Qualitative field research
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Qualitative Field Research. Topics for Field Research. Observing complex social phenomena Topics that defy simple quantification Topic best understood in natural settings Topic focused on social processes over time. All Elements of Social Life. Practices: talking, reading a book

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Topics for field research
Topics for Field Research

  • Observing complex social phenomena

    • Topics that defy simple quantification

    • Topic best understood in natural settings

    • Topic focused on social processes over time


All elements of social life
All Elements of Social Life

  • Practices: talking, reading a book

  • Episodes: divorce, crime, illness

  • Encounters: meetings, interactions

  • Role: occupations, gender roles

  • Relationships: friendships, mother-son


All elements of social life1
All Elements of Social Life

  • Groups: cliques, teams, work groups

  • Organizations: hospitals, prisons

  • Settlements: neighborhoods, ghettoes

  • Social worlds: "wall street", ”dorm life“

  • Lifestyles/subcultures: punk, gay/lesbian


Roles of the observer
Roles of the Observer

  • Participant Observation

    • Full participant to complete observer

    • Constructed roles and social interaction

  • Ethics of involvement and deception

    • Influencing the process and outcome

    • Naturalism and honesty

    • “Going native”


Relation to subjects
Relation to Subjects

  • Maintaining some separation / objectivity

  • Taking others perspectives / subjectivity

    • Mutually exclusive advantages of perspective

    • Acknowledging implications for reflexivity


Field research paradigms
Field Research Paradigms

  • Naturalism - empirical, observable reality

    • “Chicago School” sociology

    • Ethnographic - use of informants

    • Provide description of how things “really are”

  • Ethnomethodology - socially-constructed reality

    • Phenomenology - “breaching experiments”

    • “Make sense” of informants perspectives

    • Reveal underlying patterns of interaction

  • Institutional ethnography

    • Interested in institutional power relations


More field research paradigms
More Field Research Paradigms

  • Grounded theory - positivism + interactionism

    • Derive theories from patterns/themes in observations

    • Systematic set of procedures in qualitative work

    • Theoretical sampling and precise coding

  • Case studies and the extended case method

    • Detailed analysis of particular instance

    • Way to refine and improve existing theory

  • Participatory action research

    • Research as resources to those being studied


Preparing for field work
Preparing for Field Work

  • Fill in your knowledge of the subject

  • Discuss plan with an informant

  • Develop an identity, if participant

  • Select initial contact


Seven stages of interviewing
Seven Stages of Interviewing

Interviewing is flexible, iterative & continuous

  • Thematizing - clarifying

  • Design

  • Interviewing

  • Transcribing

  • Analyzing

  • Verifying and checking facts

  • Reporting


Advantages of focus groups
Advantages of Focus Groups

  • 8 - 15 participants in guided discussion

  • Foster interaction among participants

    • Socially oriented research method

    • Flexible

    • High face validity

    • Speedy results

    • Low in cost


Disadvantages of focus groups
Disadvantages of Focus Groups

  • Less control than individual interviews

  • Data can be difficult to analyze

  • Moderators may impede process

  • Reactive to differences in composition

  • Difficult to assemble groups

  • Powerful personalities can take over


Taking research notes
Taking Research Notes

  • Don’t trust your memory

    • Take notes while you observe

  • Take notes in stages

    • Take sketchy notes in field; fill in the details later

  • Record everything

    • Things that don't seem important may be significant

  • Realize that most of your field notes will not be reflected in your final project - that’s OK


Strengths of field research
Strengths of Field Research

  • Permits a great depth of understanding.

  • Flexibility - can be modified at any time.

  • Inexpensive - few direct costs

  • Validity over surveys or experiments.


Weaknesses of field research
Weaknesses of Field Research

  • No statistical evidence - limited claims

  • Personal factors may undermine reliability

  • Generalizability limited to context


Is it ethical
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?

  • To be in a situation but not commit yourself wholeheartedly to it?


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