INFO 272. Qualitative Research Methods Participant-Observation
Outline • Observation • Participation • Recording (Field Notes) • Ethics
Observation • Evenly distributed attention • Direct observation and description without interpretation as a way to challenge conventional thinking, discover new categories, concepts [Becker] • When relying on observation alone be very careful about imputing motives, general mind-reading.
Participation: varying degrees • ‘going native’ at the extreme • striking a balance between insider and outsider • Researchers role as translator
Recording: Note Taking • when? as soon as possible • where? somewhere unobtrusive • what? – “a running description of events, people, things heard and overheard, conversations among people, conversations with people.” – [Lofland and Lofland] • KEY IDEA: Log more data than you know you will need (to support an inductive analytical approach)
Jottings vs. full field notes There are a series of testimonials. A young man says he had a dream that some specific electronic items in his room were stolen. As a result of the dream he removed the items to another place. The landlady told him she wasn’t worried about things being stolen. Then one night when the man was at a church event (New Years prayer service) and someone broke in to the place. The landlady’s things were stolen and the things he had moved were safe. It is pointed out in this testimony that the landlady belonged to another church [a competitor]. Second testimonial – things are going well with this young man. He is being promoted at work, then a stranger comes into the office and touches his rib. Afterwards he falls ill and is sick for a few months. The “rib-toucher” is described as a devil – [I see allusions to witchcraft, sorcery] someone who wishes for the downfall of this young man, but he recovers. Third testimonial – girl wishes for things in life – to go to university (which she does) to go on holiday to the UK (which she does). [travel abroad] He calls up a woman from the audience. He gives some sort of prophecy about what will happen to her. She is very emotional and screams out and keeps falling backwards. The reverend comes towards here and this force he is using pushes her backwards – [a spiritual positive force (as opposed to the next woman who is possessed by an evil force)]. ..
Ethics • Respect for persons • Beneficence • Justice
Ethics: Informed Consent • People must be “given the opportunity to choose what shall or shall not happen to them.” • What the research is about (in understandable language) • The option to discontinue at any time • No coercion
Ethics: Anonymity • protect identities, names, place names, identifying features
Assignment 1 • Practice evenly distributing your attention • Practice breaking down your observation into the most basic descriptions (and distinguish this from your interpretations) • Practice recording more data than you think is relevant • Bonus points for approaching and engaging strangers in your quest to understand the social setting
Sites • Oakland Public Library – 6 • Parks/Plazas – 6 ppl • Farmer’s market – 3 ppl • Any depot, downtown bus depot 14th and Broadway – Bart byway - • Day laborers waiting to get picked up 4th street and elsewhere - 3 • Thai temple in Berkeley – food on Sundays - • Flea market – 8 ppl • A mosque – 5 ppl • Points of commerce, bank ATMs - • Grocery stores or Berkeley Bowl specifically - 8 • Restaurants - 1 • A gym, fitness – RSF • Albany Bulb - 1 • Dog parks - 1 • Sports bar, Super Bowl • Parking lot before an event