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Methodological Perspectives from Anthropology Dr.Zubeeda Quraishy Dept of Informatics University of Oslo
Objective of this session is to.. • To introduce students to the concepts of anthropological field techniques and how to construct an effective research design. • To develop a workable methodology to adequately address your research design and to write qualitative research. • To learn to think analytically, to grasp the range of human adaptability, and to reinforce tolerance for the differences found in today's interdependent world.
Writing Qualitative Research • Wolcott(1990)points out that many qualitative researchers make the mistake of leaving the writing up until the end i.e. until they have got “the story” figured out. • Wolcott makes the point that ‘writing is thinking’. Writing actually helps a researcher to think straight and to figure out what the story should be. • The motto of every qualitative researcher should be to start writing as soon as possible.
Research methods • Research methods provide important clue regarding the most relevant strategy to be used (Yin, 1994). • Case settings influences the choice of a relevant and rigorous approach.
Research Approach • Is a strategy of inquiry which moves from the underlying assumptions to research design and data collection. • The way data is collected is influenced by the choice of research approach.
Different Research Approaches in Anthropology • Quantitative & • Qualitative
Quantitative Research Methods • Quantitative methods which are now well accepted in the social sciences include: • Survey methods • Laboratory experiments, • Formal methods (e.g. econometrics) and • Numerical methods such as mathematical modeling
What is Qualitative Research? • Qualitative research can be characterized as the attempt to obtain an in-depth understanding of the meanings and 'definitions of the situation' presented by informants, rather than the production of a quantitative 'measurement' of their characteristics or behavior (Wainwright, 1997)
Qualitative Research • “Any kind of research that produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical procedures or other means of quantification.” (Strauss and Corbin (1990, pp. 17-18)
Quantifying the Qualitative Data • Qualitative interviewing techniques-’Triad Sorting’ are employed by some researchers to gather textual data that are subsequently coded and analyzed statistically thus quantifying the qualitative data. (Bernard 1988; Trotter and Potter 1993; Weller and Romney 1988) • The results of such analyses generate an understanding of cognitive categories, or how people perceive the relationship among categories in some domain, such as HIV risk behaviors.
But what happens when qualitative data is quantified.. • The goal of understanding a phenomenon from the point of view of the participants and its particular social and institutional context is largely lost when textual data are quantified (Kaplan and Maxwell, 1994)
Triangulation • Combination of one or more research methods has been referred as ‘Triangulation’. • (Ethnographers should have more than one way to show how we arrived at the conclusions of our research; field notes, interviews, and site documents which work together to support our claims. This is called triangulation ). • Good discussions of triangulation can be found in Gable (1994), Kaplan and Duchon (1988),Lee (1991), Mingers (2001) and Ragin (1987) . An empirical example of the use of triangulation is Markus' (1994) paper on electronic mail.
Other distinctions in research methods.. • Objective versus Subjective (Burrell and Morgan, 1979) • Nomothetic(general laws) Vs Idiographic (uniqueness of each particular situation) • Emic (insider) Vs Etic (outsider) perspective. • (For a fuller discussion see Luthans and Davis (1982), and Morey and Luthans (1984). • The list goes on.
Philosophical Perspectives • All research (whether quantitative or qualitative) is based on some underlying assumptions about what constitutes 'valid' research and which research methods are appropriate. In order to conduct and/or evaluate qualitative research, it is therefore important to know what these (sometimes hidden) assumptions are.
Epistemology • Most pertinent philosophical assumptions are those which relate to the underlying epistemology which guides the research. • Epistemology refers to the assumptions about knowledge and how it can be obtained (for a fuller discussion, see Hirschheim, 1992).
Assumptions that underlie the Anthropological Research Perspective • First, it is assumed that people are symbol constructing and spend a great deal of time consciously and unconsciously interpreting what the symbols & behaviors created by themselves and others mean • Anthropologist gain knowledge of how people think and behave through involvement in their daily social milieus. • Finally, it is assumed that people’s perceptions and behaviors are related to context.
Qualitative Research Methods • Originally developed in the Social Sciences. • Have a specific strength in helping to understand people as well as social and cultural phenomena (Avison, Lau, Myers & Nielsen,1999). • Used for describing the participant’s views of processes and collecting subjective accounts of phenomena. • Used for analysis of the data, finding connections & relationships, the influence of the context and different perspectives toward phenomena.
Benefits of Using Anthropological Methods • Through anthropological methods, it is possible to gain an understanding of the meanings people attribute to their actions as well as delineate the wider socio-political and ecological context in which their behaviors take place (Ex, drug use and HIV risk behaviors) cont..
Benefits of using Anthropological methods • Such an understanding is crucial not only for designing and evaluating questionnaires but also for designing locally and culturally sensitive intervention and prevention programs as well as for formulating meaningful research questions (Carlson et al. 1994a)
Distinguishing Features of Anthropological Research • Concerned with exploring and interpreting social phenomena (tries to understand how people make sense of their world). • Studies people in their own territory & in their natural settings. • Gives insight concerning questions in terms of ‘Who’, ’Where’, ’How’ & ’Why’ . • Anthropologists have the expertise of studying complex human behavior (HIV, drug abuse etc) • Employs different methods
….. Anthropological Research • “..often the only means available for gathering sensitive and valid data from otherwise elusive populations (ex, substance abusers, commercial sex workers etc.” Wiebel (1990, p. 5) • Anthropological research is necessary not only to design questionnaires but also to formulate meaningful research questions, conduct appropriate statistical analyses, and interpret the results (Werner and Schoepfle (1987a) )
Anthropologists… • Study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. • Involve a variety of empirical materials- case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts-that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives ( Denzin and Lincoln, 1994b,p.2).
To be an anthropologist… • One needs to explore, investigate, roam, and be nomadic. • Give up any thoughts about sending someone else out to do the work. • Forget having someone else do the transcription. The nuances are what count, and you can not delegate that work. This is not something you can do impersonally to avoid your own bias. • Bias is your locator, your internal detective, but only after you self-reflect and figure out your bias, you can move ahead of it. This is why it is important to keep a field diary, to record your dreams, your insights, your conjecture, those hypotheses that comes from doing the field work.
REQUIREMENTS FOR ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH PERSPECTIVE • “Anthropological research requires the investigator to spend considerable time with the group under study, to develop contacts with key respondents, to learn the language, norms, values, and attitudes of this group, and to build trust relation-ships”.(Sterk-Elifson (1993, p. 163)
Contd.. • Equal time must be allotted for data processing and analysis. • Anthropological research methods were developed to enable researchers to study social and cultural phenomena.
Some of the Research Methods in Anthropology are… • Action Research • Case Study Research • Ethnography • Grounded Theory
Action Research • ‘Action research aims to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to the goals of social science by joint collaboration within a mutually acceptable ethical framework’ (Rapoport, 1970, p. 499).
Contd.. Action Research • Action research is concerned to enlarge the stock of knowledge of the social science community. • It is this aspect of action research that distinguishes it from applied social science, where the goal is simply to apply social scientific knowledge but not to add to the body of knowledge. • Action research has been accepted as a valid research method in applied fields such as organization development and education (e.g. see the Special Issue on action research in Human Relations, Vol. 46, No. 2, 1993, and Kemmis and McTaggart, 1988). • In recent years action research is undertaken in Information Systems research.
ICIS 1999 Panel on "IS Action Research: Can We Serve Two Masters?" • A brief overview of action research is the article by Susman and Evered (1988). • The article by Baskerville and Wood-Harper (1996) provides a good introduction to how action research might be used by IS researchers. An empirical example of action research is the article by Ytterstad et al. (1996). • Investigating Information Systems with Action ResearchReferences on Action ResearchMIS Quarterly Special Issue on Action Research in Information Systems has now been published. See Baskerville and Myers (2004)
Case Study Research • The term “Case Study" has multiple meanings. It can be used to describe a unit of analysis (e.g. a case study of a particular organisation) or to describe a research method. • Case study research is the most common qualitative method used in information systems (Orlikowski and Baroudi, 1991; Alavi and Carlson, 1992). • Yin (2002) defines the scope of a case study as follows: • A case study is an empirical inquiry that: • investigates a phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when • The boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident (Yin 2002
Case Study Research • Case study research method is particularly well-suited to IS research, since the object of our discipline is the study of information systems in organizations, and "interest has shifted to organizational rather than technical issues" (Benbasat et al. 1987).
Ethnography • Ethnographic research comes purely from the discipline of social and cultural anthropology where an ethnographer is required to spend a significant amount of time in the field & conduct an in-depth research. • Ethnographers immerse themselves in the lives of the people they study (Lewis 1985, p. 380) and seek to place the phenomena studied in their social and cultural context.
According to Anthropologists… • Ethnographic research is not objective but an interpretive endeavor. • Not all field sites are "foreign" for ethnographers in the same way. • Ethnography is not replicable research. • Ethnography is not based on large numbers of cases (like quantitative research).
Cultural Relativism • there is no one standpoint from which to judge all cultures and ways of being in the world. Because of this, anthropologists are conditioned to see various perspectives as "positioned" (Abu-Lughod 1991), and the things that we learn in the field as "partial truths" (Clifford 1986)
Cultural and other barriers to Field Research • Cultural stereo Information Systems as Social systems : Implications for Developing Countries by types(subcultural groups-drug users, CSWs etc • Minority group cultural barrier-unless we have good rapport or contacts many of the ethnic groups will not let the researchers study the group. • Organised networks-heroin group
Ethnographers… • Ethnographers engage in participant observation in order to gain insight into cultural practices and phenomena. • These insights develop over time and through repeated analysis of many aspects of our field sites. • Ethnographers are expected to be "reflexive" • To facilitate this process, ethnographers must learn how to take useful and reliable notes regarding the details of life in their research contexts. • These field notes will constitute a major part of the data on which later conclusions will be based.
Field notes • Field notes should be written as soon as possible after leaving the field site, immediately if possible. • We are all very likely to forget important details unless we write them down very quickly. • Since this may be very time-consuming, students should plan to leave a block of time for writing just after leaving the research context.
Field Notes a list of points that should be included in all field notes: • Date, time, and place of observation • Specific facts, numbers, details of what happens at the site • Sensory impressions: sights, sounds, textures, smells, tastes • Personal responses to the fact of recording fieldnotes • Specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations, and insider language • Questions about people or behaviors at the site for future investigation • Page numbers to help keep observations in order (Chiseri-Strater and Sunstein (1997)
Ethnography as a Method in IS • Ethnography has now become more widely used in the study of information systems in organizations, from the study of the development of information systems to the study of aspects of information technology management (Hughes et. al, 1992; Orlikowski, 1991; Preston, 1991) (Davies, 1991; Davies and Nielsen, 1992).
Grounded Theory • Grounded theory is a research method that seeks to develop theory that is grounded in data systematically gathered and analyzed. According to Martin and Turner (1986), grounded theory is "an inductive theory discovery methodology that allows the researcher to develop a theoretical account of the general features of a topic while simultaneously grounding the account in empirical observations or data."
(Contd..) Grounded Theory • The major difference between grounded theory and other methods is its specific approach to theory development - grounded theory suggests that there should be a continuous interplay between data collection and analysis.
(Contd..) Grounded Theory • Grounded theory approaches are becoming increasingly common in the IS research literature because the method is extremely useful in developing context-based, process-oriented descriptions and explanations of the phenomenon (see, for example, Orlikowski, 1993).
Techniques for Collecting Qualitative Data • Field Work • Active & Passive Participation • Observation: Participant and Non participant observation • Interviews: Formal & Informal Structured & Unstructured • Interview Guide • Focus Group Interviews • Questionnaire • Analysis of documents
(Contd..) Techniques for collecting Qualitative Data • Narrative Approach • Story telling • Life History method • Action Research • Researchers impressions and reactions. • Narrative & Metaphor
Narrative & Metaphor • Narrative & metaphor play an important role in all types of thinking and social practice. • In IS the focus has mostly been on understanding language, communication and meaning among systems developers and organizational members.
Participant Observation • Participant observation is a dialectic process that cycles back and forth between assuming a role of a participant and the role of an observer. • Guides ethnographic fieldwork • Participant observation techniques require professional training and the allocation of the lead time necessary to develop rapport with the people being studied
Developing Rapport • Developing Rapport means developing and maintaining complementary relation-ships with the people. • Rapport means trust and communication as well as commitment and skills in interpersonal relations. • The flexibility to develop rapport is an advantage of qualitative methods and an important factor in assuring the validity of the data. • Building relationships can contribute to the execution of qualitative interviews in more controlled settings.
Interviewing Techniques • Ranging from informal to semi structured and life histories • Open ended interview conversation is allowed to flow freely in reference to a particular topic. • Free flowing conversation plays an important role in gaining familiarity with the way people perceive and express various dimensions of their lives.
Interviewing Techniques • In a more structured interview a set of pre designed discussion topics are offered for a person’s response. • Open – ended interviewing serves as a means of determining how people talk about or perceive various aspects of their lives and categorize things. • Generally used for creating more focused set of questions that pertain to particular research problem
Sources of Data Collection in Anthropology • Primary: Data which is unpublished and gather from the people or organisation directly. • Field work notes and the experience of living is an important source of data. • Secondary : refers to any materials (books, articles etc.) which have been previously published.