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Qualitative Field Research

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  1. Qualitative Field Research • Interviewing • Focus Groups • Ethnography • Case Studies • Grounded Theory • Ethnomethodology

  2. Topics for Field Research • Attitudes and behaviors best understood in a natural setting. • Social processes over time.

  3. 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

  4. 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 (Wolcott) • Classic Example: Fenno’s Home

  5. Role of the Researcher • Complete Observer (Secret Outsider) • Participant as Observer (Recognized Outsider) • Observer as Participant (Marginal Participant) • Complete Participant (Full Participant)

  6. Seven Stages of Interviewing • Thematizing • Design • Interviewing • Transcribing • Analyzing • Verifying and checking facts • Reporting

  7. Advantages of Focus Groups • Socially oriented research method • Flexible • High face validity • Speedy results • Low in cost

  8. Disadvantages of Focus Groups • Less control than individual interviews. • Data can be difficult to analyze. • Moderators must be skilled. • Difference between groups can be troublesome. • Groups are difficult to assemble. • Discussion must be conducted in a conducive environment.

  9. Ethnography • Exploring a cultural group by: • discovering • understanding • describing and • interpreting a way of life from the point of view of its participants

  10. Ethnography Ethnographic studies offer: • thick descriptions of cultural groups • a methodological approach for exploring cultures, symbols, and norms • an acceptance of multiple realities However, they often involve ‘immersion’, and all the problems thereof Ethnographic researchers also need to manage their own subjectivities.

  11. Guidelines - Taking Research Notes • Don’t trust your memory. Take notes while you observe. • Take sketchy notes in the field and rewrite them later (as soon as possible), filling in the details.

  12. Guidelines - Taking Research Notes • 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.

  13. The Desire to Delve Deeper • Delving deeper can involve exploring the interactions, processes, lived experiences, and belief systems that can be found within individuals, institutions, cultural groups, and the everyday

  14. Strengths of Field Research • Permits a great depth of understanding. • Flexibility - research may be modified at any time. • Inexpensive (maybe) • Has more validity than surveys or experiments (Wolcott?)

  15. 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.

  16. Working Towards Credibility Methods that allow researchers to ‘delve deeper’, often involve parameters not likely to lend themselves to assessment by ‘positivist’ criteria, i.e.) • non-random samples • generating mainly qualitative data • natural settings rather than controlled • searching for holistic meaning • managing the inherent biases of the researcher • inductive analysis • idiographic interpretation

  17. Credibility Strategies In studies that ‘delve deeper’, strategies for achieving credibility include: • working towards thoroughness • i.e. saturation, crystallization, prolonged engagement, persistent observation, broad representation and peer review • seeking confirmation • i.e. triangulation, fact checking, and full explication of method

  18. Wolcott

  19. Methodology • What methodology does Wolcott use? • Life history approach • Ethnography • Is this appropriate? • Is this the best way to study education and/or homeless teenagers?

  20. Reliability and Validity • What is reliability? • What is validity? • What are the issues of reliability and validity in this study?

  21. Validity • The accuracy of a prediction or inference • Soundness of all interpretations • The degree to which scientific observations actually measure or record what they purport to measure.

  22. Increasing Validity • Talk little, listen a lot (don’t lead the witness) • Record Accurately • Begin Writing Early • Let reader’s “see” for themselves – primary data • Report Fully, even contradictory stuff • Be candid (about subjectivity) • Seek feedback • Write accurately

  23. Ethics and Research • What are the ethical issues in this study?

  24. Is It Ethical? • 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? • To get personally involved with subjects