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Topics Appropriate for Field Research • 295

Introduction numbers. Thus, for example, a field researcher may
Qualitative Field Research Several chapters ago, I suggested that you've been
doing social research all your life. This idea should
note the "paternalistic demeanor" of leaders at a
political rally or the "defensive evasions" of a public
official at a public hearing without trying to express
become even dearer as we tum to what probably either the paternalism or the defensiveness as a
seems like the most obvious method of making numerical quantity or degree. Although field re-
observations: qualitative field research. In a sense, search can be used to collect quantitative data-for
we do field research whenever we observe or par- example, noting the number of interactions of vari-
ticipate in social behavior and try to understand it, ous specified types within a field setting-typically,
whether in a college classroom, in a doctor's wait- field research is qualitative.
ing room, or on an airplane. Whenever we report Field observation also differs from some other
our observations to others, we're reporting our models of observation in that it's not just a data-
field research efforts. collecting activity. Frequently, perhaps typically,
Such research is at once very old and very it's a theory-generating activity as well. As a field
new in social science, stretching at least from the researcher, you'll seldom approach your task with
nineteenth-century studies of preliterate societies, precisely defined hypotheses to be tested. More
through firsthand examinations of urban commu- typically, you'll attempt to make sense out of an
nity life in the "Chicago School" of the 1930s and ongoing process that cannot be predicted in ad-
1940s, to contemporary observations of chat-room vance-making initial observations, developing
interactions on the web. Many of the techniques tentative general conclusions that suggest particular
discussed in this chapter have been used by social types of further observations, making those ob-
Participatory Action researchers for centuries. Within the social sciences, servations and thereby revising your conclusions,
Introduction
Research anthropologists are especially associated with this and so forth. In short, the alternation of induction
Topics Appropriate method and have contributed to its development as
Conducting Qualitative and deduction discussed in Part I of this book is
for Field Research a scientific technique. Moreover, something similar
Field Research perhaps nowhere more evident and essential than
Special Considerations in to this method is employed by many people who in good field research. For expository purposes,
Preparing for the Field
Qualitative Field Research might not, strictly speaking, be regarded as social however, this chapter focuses primarily on some of
Qualitative Interviewing
The Various Roles science researchers. Newspaper reporters are one the theoretical foundations of field research and on
of the Observer Focus Groups
example; welfare department case workers are techniques of data collection. Chapter 13 discusses
Relations to Subjects Recording Observations
another. how to analyze qualitative data.
Some Qualitative Field Strengths and Weaknesses Although these are "natural" activities, they
Research Paradigms of Qualitative Field are also skills to be learned and honed. This chap-
Naturalism Research ter discusses these skills in some detail, examining
Validity
Ethnomethodology
Reliability
some of the major paradigms of field research and Topics Appropriate
Grounded Theory describing some of the specific techniques that
Case Studies and the Ethics and Qualitative Field make scientific field research more useful than the for Field Research
Extended Case Method Research casual observation we all engage in. One of the key strengths of field research is how
Institutional Ethnography I use the term qualitative field research to dis- comprehensive a perspective it can give research-
tinguish this type of observational method from ers. By going directly to the social phenomenon
methods designed to produce data appropriate for under study and observing it as completely as pos-
quantitative (statistical) analysis. Thus, surveys sible, researchers can develop a deeper and fuller
provide data from which to calculate the percent- understanding of it. As such, this mode of observa-
aplia· age unemployed in a population, mean incomes, tion is especially, though not exclusively, appropri-
Aplia for The Practice of Sodal Research and so forth. Field research more typically yields ate to research topics and social studies that appear
After reading, go to "Online Study Resources" at the end of this chapter for qualitative data: observations not easily reduced to to defy simple quantification. Field researchers may
instructions on how to use Aplia's homework and learning resources.

having been summoned lives. and cleaned it up. Organizations: Formal organizations. and took (1) why teen-agers behave in the ways they do and 4. can when a passerby sneered. and it was useful that Milner is 1985) is the nature of responsibility for public mat. as opposed high school youth culture. Roles and soda! types: The analysis of the posi. field research is well suited to the In Analyzing Soda! Settings (2006: 123-132). rarely has immediate relevance to their day-to-day about it. I asked them to note the answers to two better way of discovering whether men or women be combined in a more comprehensive examina. their personal feelings of dis- most of the day and they have only very limited down a bunch of trash. veal things that would not otherwise be apparent. social scientists. conspicuous. and generally put down. They are pres. ments in our society that assign responsibility for l. pleased with us for doing it. Subcultures and lifestyles: How large numbers of When I first began discussing this pattern world in which they evaluate one another. all my you to clean up your mess. ously bring positive sanctions: People would be l. public hearings. where it had been a problem for months. Jr." the larger society? ated with those positions: occupations." (2004: 4) 8. athletic teams. You'd probably face negative sanctions They do. comfort were increased by the reactions of those influence on what happens there. How did others around them react? rumblings and final explosion of a riot as events ac- 1. start fixing the public problems they came across religious conversion at a revival meeting. these activities. figured into his examination and understanding of we share work? Who's responsible for keeping them how they would react to someone's cleaning derstood within their natural setting. up litter in a public place or otherwise taking per- to the somewhat artificial settings of experiments Other good places to apply field research meth. tion of the events. or over garbage cans and rolls them around the street. field research provides ods include campus demonstrations. fixed street talking or reading a book And when these responsibilities are not fulfilled. and Cool Kids (2004). vague boundaries and populations. Thus. and so on. It's my notion that it has be- weren't "their responsibility. which perhaps someone would say something to you hospitals or schools bus stop. Now here's by a neighbor. if a strong wind knocks To settle the issue. public spaces-parks. Soda! worlds: Ambiguous social entities with your action would also be unacceptable to those ers. cleaned and decorated communal lounges culture by Murray Milner. friendships. Soda! and personal relationships: Behavior goody. park. the field John Lofland and his colleagues discuss several department employees are responsible for the responsibility for? researcher might be in a position to examine the elements of social life appropriate to field research: street signs. That is they can and do create their own status clear to us that there are only three acceptable ex- class" or an "urban underdass" Although we would be negatively sanctioned for systems-usually based on criteria that are planations for picking up litter in a public place: littering. We have formal and informal agree. Groups and cliques: Small groups. family come unacceptable for someone like you or me to Most reported feeling very uncomfortable Perhaps you can relate personally to one of the roles. Settlements and habitats: Small-scale "societies" definite. 5. the answer to these questions did so. They felt foolish. have one crucial kind of laughed at. One student was removing a dam- sured to learn complex and esoteric knowledge like People would glare at you. If you were keep us from performing these activities routinely. the irony. Encounters: Two or more people meeting and assignment of responsibility for public things to bility at intersections. "Clumsy!" It became people adjust to life in groups such as a "ruling with students. most felt the notion was absurd. and European history. Episodes: A variety of events such as divorce. ethnic groups take personal responsibility for public matters that doing whatever they did. courtroom street signs get fixed? Or. negative sanctions for littering. put knocked-over traffic cones back in Or consider the insightful study of high school 2. Transportation public problem they had not been assigned study of social processes over time. action was unacceptable to those around you. tion over time and space. Whatever the form. if we asked study of those attitudes and behaviors best un. questions: were more likely to convert. You did it and got caught-somebody forced or teachers. For example. it's likely that that the mess should be left for the street clean- 9. Another student decided to clean Milner goes on to identify one area where such as villages. tually occur rather than afterward in a reconstruc. and work groups around them. appropriately en. field research can re. and illness What fascinates me is the extent to which the in their dorms. repaired public playground was interested in exploring two sets of questions: interacting specific individuals not only relieves others of the equipment. and neighborhoods. Everyone who picked up litter was sneered at.. who's responsible for getting them out of the road? in the course of their everyday activities. a special kind of as opposed to large societies such as nations. taking responsibility. Geeks. malls. My students picked up litter. crime. and all the other feelings that the feeling that they are largely powerless in many appropriate to pairs or sets of roles: mother-son Let me illustrate what I mean. which ters: Who's responsible for making the things that everyone else would be pleased. As they statistical analysis of membership rolls would be a ited area and time. and the like In almost every case. is pretty dear. . however. I suggested that my students a superior method for studying the dynamics of proceedings. responsibility but actually prohibits them from care of a hundred other public problems that (2) how do their behaviors fit into the structure of tions people occupy and the behavior associ. such as friend. came across a bunch of trash that someone himself being yelled at by a neighbor who insisted power: which are difficult to stl!dy else had dropped. (2004:4) Here's a concrete example. and surveys. such as aged and long-unused newspaper box from the algebra. such as for the garbage cans rolling around on a windy day. too. just as a similar events taking place within a relatively lim. Freaks. cleaning up a public place would obvi- quite different from those promoted by ·parents In all these social settings. chemistry. we tend to look for someone to blame. grumble to each other. you'd be subjected to when the police arrived. and perhaps the police are responsible 2. buildings. 7. One young sports world" and "Wall Street" for cleaning it up. If you were walking through that same out a clogged storm drain on his street and found teenagers do have. place. and exercise. goody- key starting points in Milner's study of teenage life: haven't been assigned to us. Government custodians are respon- sible for keeping public places dean. Practices: Various kinds of behavior. power: the power to create an informal social man was picking up litter scattered around a trash 10. ship cliques. ghettos. It seemed likely that Field research is especially appropriate for the also an expert on the Indian caste system. such as "the around you. cleaned up a public place. signs. labor negotiations. you'd discover that your 6. Several such observations must On the surface. Murray 3. Certainly. cleaned public restrooms. aspects of their lives: "They must attend school for walking through a public park and you threw relationships.296 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Topics Appropriate for Field Research • 297 recognize several nuances of attitude and behavior Status systems constitute a central concept for One issue I'm particularly interested in (Babbie students said they would be pleased if someone that might escape researchers using other methods. trimmed trees that blocked visi- titled. How did they feel while they were fixing a Finally. dean? Who's responsible for seeing that broken sonal responsibility for fixing some social problem.

sociologists are not simply vantage of probing social life in its natural habitat. If the people would have produced a solid consensus that it was Two important aspects of qualitative research used term participant observation. you may affect what you're Field research is not to be confused with jour." they're studying. tion. Often. This approach shows up in Qualitative Field Research This type of research introduces an ethical issue. First. For instance. A sociologist's goal is to treat through questionnaires or in the laboratory. tion) or may pretend to be a genuine participant. your influence on the process is obvi- sociology. More seriously. that the subjects will be more referred to as good citizenship. researchers observe subtle communications and participant.: 75) who fixed public things). Suppose. observers can play any of several subjects solely for the purpose of deception. from different class backgrounds In field research. all possible complementary mixes along studying. a wide range of studies researchers need not always participate in what might modify their behavior in a variety of ways. and qualitative field you're studying in the hope that they will confide altering their behavior from what it would have with Irish teenagers: research is no exception. need to use. field research offers the ad. if certainty and indecisiveness in the group. you're using this technique to study a group made Ultimately. If the group follows your viewing is a common technique in journalism and In summary. the social process itself might be fixing things for the sake of having them work. sometimes tained and shared commitment from all. roles. a genuine participant in what he or she is studying ous. On the other side of the coin. be the case. ing what happened gave us an accurate picture. of plete participant. various epistemologies directly at the scene of the action. not as a researcher. And. The work of relationship build.298 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research • 299 2. a participant in a campus demonstra. we should re- the degree of actual participation in daily life. you will affect the relationship to data. . who down the university administration building. you may be adding to a general feeling of un- Byrne. the norms to be followed remain the teenagers. As an interesting footnote to this story. Social scientists and journalists may use ing campaigns might profit from focus group dis- the continuum are available to the researcher. Clearly. for your ideas about what the group should do similar techniques. taking not be appropriate for you to talk and act like a being observed. At the other extreme they learn that one of their group is a social scien- ness of one person to rise above those agreements construct their everyday lives in order to perform is the complete observer. they good. but they have quite a different cussions. Canavan. researcher? Do the potential benefits to be gained 3. The voice-centered sured otherwise. the listener is the researcher. As Catherine First. and breadwin- all in social interaction and may even shun in. we'll find that researchers (1995: 60) next. Third. Building relationships between old The Various Roles of the Observer scientific one. Rather. a participant. you must let people see you only as next. For instance. fall under the umbrella "qualitative field research. A question such as "How do women constructed in the setting. though they usually do study it This is known as the problem of reactivity. should we analyze data?" Second. Let's examine some of the issues involved in these ceptable for people to take responsibility for public ing is time consuming and energy sapping. distinction can go even deeper. I've used natural and honest if they do not know the re- what they thought about taking responsibility the term field research rather than the frequently searcher is doing a research project. many research approaches do not require the situations. No researcher deceives his or her personal responsibility for public things except and young. it's simply not ac. need to be stressed. accounts of the difference between the two actors Special Considerations university professor or student. The authors say about their study that dealt in every research method. Second. seemed to make it safe for others to do so. you're confronted with deci. for example. to observe (this was the situation of the students valid and reliable. There are specific things to take into account are divided. might give up the plan altogether once to take responsibility for public things. may be suggestion. Only going out into life. one on which social researchers themselves reactivity The problem that the subjects of sodal during interviews and during the analysis of tran. the willing. because field being studied know they're being studied. that you're asked nalism. process in some fashion. up of uneducated and inarticulate people. radically changed. and Millar (2009) suggest this other events that might not be anticipated or mea. may affect what happens next. You're stealing litter. Students making plans to bum the passersby tended to assist. the process whereby the suggestion is rejected belief. And direct observation in the field lets In any event. Although there are member that the questions we want to answer in At one extreme is the full participant. The assessment of advertis- course. they might expel the researcher. things. When you use field in you as they will not confide in an identified been normally. thus scripts. and direct observations. if you're a com- they did. and their roles as mothers. Although some things can be studied adequately (for example. You did it and felt guilty. including participating in what they want it's done in the belief that the data will be more taking responsibility is a good thing. One of the challenging dimensions of the work research methods. No matter what you say. it would does or does not do will have some effect on what's ing in communications and who is listening. ners?" could be addressed by in-depth interviews volvement in the world being studied. anything the participant-observer relational (VCR) method focuses on who is speak. students and I found that whenever people could within different paradigms have quite different Marshall and Gretchen Rossman point out: they might modify their speech and behavior to get past their initial reactions and discover that approaches to basic questions such as "What are The researcher may plan a role that entails appear more "respectable" than would otherwise the students were simply taking responsibility for data?" "How should we collect data?" and "How varying degrees of "participantness"-that is. in this sense. somewhat ambiguous when applied to specific decisions. In this chapter. Finally. my As we'll see in this chapter. we could not have discovered the formation of "caring relationships" with the Related to this ethical consideration is a nature and strength of agreements about taking researched. Although many professional associations have ad- In the normal course of things. Asking people (2009. if you indi- an interview as data that need to be analyzed to ers cannot. and watch. it's simply inevitable. nevertheless. then. through field research. whenever you act as the complete cate that you just don't know what should be done understand social life more generally. and the impact of those differences. was that it brought us face to face with a reality sions about the role you'll play as an observer and from the research offset such considerations? that demanded that we act with or on behalf of your relations with the people you're observing. for some very strong agreements making it "unsafe" our research determine the types of methods we goes about ordinary life in a role or set of roles example. dressed this issue. have alternate methods to choose from. Is it ethical to deceive the people research may react to the fact of being studied. partners. individual inter. oth. Social norms suggest that and diverse life experiences require a sus. who engages not at tist conducting a research project. The complete participant. In most cases. doing it. or experience. If the group decides not to follow your sugges- concerned with reporting about a subject's attitude.

To fully ap. imagine strange to you. To the tion to the research project rather than focusing on destroy the world and save the members of the why people might adopt such a view. Messengers with whom I had reoccur- a bus stop to observe jaywalking at a nearby in. But to take them on kind of research. the complete observer group. all their Facebook friends joined were unaware of my research. conversely. this was a mat- scientific detachment. you may come to hold contra- on Mars. clear that my participation within the messen- people being studied may shift much of their atten. (1970. that injunction would (for example. can fully assume the beliefs of the cult. On the one hand. Consider now how you would think and feel in activities that humanity has fashioned for itself. borhood. beliefs. In New York City. Moreover. Because rapport later in this chapter). Without denying the advantages associated agree with those "objective" explanations. and you may find sometimes that your fortable prospect for most people. Take a moment to ask seeing and understanding the phenomenon within undertaking research. or understanding. accepting the belief that the tion to launch a study in the sociology of sports. role to match your aims. making the process being cult. you more and more deeply into the phenomenon these often conflict. tention on a limited aspect of the social setting or such a situation. objectivity. Or. he found it or pretending to join it. you might use your posi. believers." be difficult. yourself may come to identify too much with the Traditionally. lieve that Jesus will come next Thursday night to makes it possible for you to consider some reasons ger world was neither forced nor faked. you believe it? sonal trauma (such as unemployment or divorce). Robert Bellah dictory viewpoints simultaneously. observer is less likely to affect what's being studied able to fully understand the thoughts and actions of perspective maintains a distance from the native and less likely to "go native" than the complete Different situations ultimately require different the cult members unless you can adopt their points point of view in the interest of achieving more participant. You could participate fully with the group When Jeffrey Kidder set out to study the cul. The by the "real" members. however. The main differ. As you become more adept at this that you were sent to observe some newfound life just to tolerate certain views. You emphasize the importance of "objectivity" in such their participation in particular social networks the messengers with whom I came in contact may begin to "go native" and lose much of your matters. running the risk of "going native. what views. there are of view as true-at least temporarily. stepping outside that view. a danger in adopting the cal and scientific. however. the field researcher frequently seek to observe all of it-framing an appropriate Suppose you've decided to study a religious points of view of the people you're studying. The numerous individuals that helped of it in any way. We'll examine this risk further in the next section. ball team. it's possible to roles that observers might play as "the Martian" decision. observations. ence is whether or not you actually take on the world will end Thursday night allows you to ap- While I did have an academic motivation in letting your teammates know what you're doing. called the spent in the setting being observed: You can be a We've already noted the possibility of pretend. In contrast. There is. 1974) has offered the term symbolic realism switching back and forth. you must be guided by both rapport with your subjects (see the discussion on assume both postures. Some social scien. chooses a different role from that of complete par." Because of these several considerations. If the cult members be. of those he observed but not others (2005: 349): joining and "pretending" to join. social scientists today also might not come up with them to the extent that day. my lifelong interest in bicycles and the natural social process. Marshall and Rossman ( 199 5: 60-61 ) also note how researchers may relate to the subjects of their than as objects of ridicule. Stebbins ( 1991: 1) to conclude that "fieldwork Hawthorne effect. for example. as "selective competence" or "insider knowledge. you had operated legitimately within the group's form my understandings of messenger style researcher's unobtrusiveness. Unfortunately. a messenger At the other extreme. and you crosses paths with hundreds of messengers a studies a social process without becoming a part with such objectivity. most of interests and viewpoints of the participants. role limits your study. In making your night. You might study the group by joining adopting such views. of course. The difficulty of adopt- feet. cult that has enrolled many people in your neigh. Notice that the cult members might dis- ter of necessity. however. because of the recognize the benefits gained by immersing them. the etic interest. Observa. with the messenger lifestyle. no clear guidelines for making this choice-you preciate the phenomenon you've set out to study. you won't be view of those being studied. ethi. When you abandon your objectivity in favor of ticipant. though sensitivity to the issue may provide that the researcher can vary the amount of time study and to the subjects' points of view. The apparent dilemma here is that both of tions may be more sketchy and transitory. the subjects of study selves in the points of view they're studying. you under study. social scientists have tended to whereas others were brought into the fold through During the course of my fieldwork. Probably you would feel yourself inescap- Relations to Subjects as your own can be ten times worse.300 m Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research 111 301 there is no complete protection against this ef. enough merely to learn about views that seem you can step inside the viewpoints associated with To appreciate the "Martian" approach. When appropriate. It can be hard can step outside those beliefs (more accurately. In some settings. we now focus more specifically on the beliefs they study as worthy of respect rather which people allow spirits to occupy their bodies . Quite possibly. rather than ably separate from the Martians. perspective in reference to taking on the point of ring contact were informed of my sociological tersection is one example. you may sometimes find it hard social science). In fact. attitudes. Having introduced the different roles field re. must certainly rank with the more disagreeable Chapter 8. Sometimes you can simply and "the Convert. and other points of view shared preciate aspects of that belief available only to working as a messenger. (This influence. she or he is also less likely to develop a roles for the researcher. You may contrary. must rely on your understanding of the situation you need to believe that Jesus is coming Thursday these postures offer important advantages but also Fred Davis (1973) characterizes the extreme and your own good judgment.) now and then. Although the complete skill. you lose the possibility of under study but make it clear that you were also ture of bike messengers in New York City. do you believe it or do you simply pretend to discover that some did so as a consequence of per- alternative transportation melded searnlessly observed no longer typical. it appropriate to identify his research role to some yourself what the difference is between "really" frames of reference unavailable to your subjects. be to avoid getting swept up in the beliefs of the the cult). your decision will frequently Adopting an alien point of view is an uncom. you can focus your at. it should be made There are dangers in this role also. shift viewpoints at will. this can also help you gain seem mutually exclusive. As a member of the volley. full appreciation of what's being studied. Sitting at John Lofland and his colleagues (2006: 70) refer to Anthropologists sometimes use the term ernie forms." The latter involves delving methodological and ethical considerations. tists adopt this degree of separation when observing searchers might play in connection with their to indicate the need for social researchers to treat During my study of trance channeling-in cultures or social classes different from their own. was discussed more fully in full-time presence on the scene or just show up ing to occupy social statuses we don't really occupy. could not all be approached to sign consent might not realize they're being studied. later." Ultimately. ing others' views led William Shaffir and Robert a partial protection. In this example.

Rather ship to subjects in the field. Imagine yourself interviewing a contributed to her reaction. and the nature how to serve guests' needs than we might expect. When she found herself writing research What could seem like aclearer status relationship than between a participants) nor disbelieving it (like most scien. research often cannot be avoided. The researchers have however. Often the experimenter was the only per. stereo. field research. . In part. Class Acts: Service and Inequality it possible to suspend beliefs in that realm: neither ticed that some were particularly difficult for her to in Luxury Hotels believing it to be genuine (like most of the other deal with. and the more they have considered alterna- ing situations such as these." their experiences to a male interviewer than to a The problem we've just been discussing could woman. In her interview study than "believing" in the reality of channeling. to those who were cooperative and nice. occurring mostly inside of disfigurement. The person running the survey it wasn't really true. pologists explained that the "real" functions of these Imagine. for example.ife alienated from conventional social science. Whereas the natives said some of the people you're studying. "scientific objectivity. clearly has more power and a higher status than the field to study their fellow humans face-to-face. for example. the anthro- be moved by their personal problems and crises. parking cars. Research in Reall. the impact of the for questioning. however. If you reflect on this whether patients were interviewed by someone mersion in the research allowed her access to data she would not have issue. their rude interaction styles. decides who will be selected of their rituals would appease the gods. and so on. deliv- pending on where you conducted the interview. Similarly. The issue is broader than that. Sup. differ. This discussion of the field researcher's relation. Hand. In the end. for example. I found of British expatriates living in Hong Kong. your own through the discomfort to continue interviewing. Rachel Sherman has found afar more com- Notice how this differs from our normal need to self to look more deeply into the interactional dy- plex process than you might imagine. She made her research research setting could affect the person's responses. She is particularly interested in "know" whether such things are legitimate or not. she forced her- that guest's needs? In fact. of things acting on themselves. Something similar might be said about witchcraft. Sup. but there is a sense in which that's tives. and Kelly (2009) ex- through many of the different service jobs: making reservations. and analyzes the data collected. I was open to either possibility. a breast-cancer patient's feelings who organized things and told the subjects what out to study what were originally called "primitive" be seen as psychological. there was no doubt that the anthropolo- the researchers' or subjects' heads. and Inequality in Luxury Hotels" above for an ex- but they are part and parcel of field research. it In field research. she no. This has aposi- however. rituals were the creation of sodal identity.302 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Special Considerations in Qualitative Field Research 111 303 and speak through them-I found I could partici. the research encounter that complicate the task of cancer patients were more graphic in describing "simply observing what's so. the more they have become conscious of pose they need the money for food? ships to subjects flies in the face of the usual view of a special knowledge that the subjects don't enjoy. was obvious who was in charge: the experimenter. observer. Unlike manufacturing workers. homeless person ( l ) on the street. to do. Before son who even knew what the research was really gists knew best. you'll be able to identify other aspects of of the same or of the opposite sex? It did. Similarly. The would have been possible if she had limited herself spent as aservice worker in two luxury hotels. societies. Caroline Knowles (2006) raises a somewhat dif- pate fully in channeling sessions without becoming ferent issue with regard to the researcher's relation. the estab- bers becomes ill and needs a ride to the hospital. you're likely to includes same-sex and opposite-sex relations. the anthropologists "knew" When you become deeply involved in the lives notice that a cancer patient's overall experience survey research. carrying bags. you decide that sex-matching is the best policy. Should you loan it? Probably not. and applies to the subjects as well as to of the relationship she was establishing with them tive impact on the worker's sense of self as well as providing agood the researcher. you might get different results de. whether in experiments. were expressed dif. lematic. the just discussed as a matter of reflexivity. have said frequently in this book." Before concluding this section. identity known to management and was able to move around In other words. she discovered characteristics can affect what you see and how She found that factors such as the attitudes they ex- that service workers in hotels often receive more discretion regarding you interpret it. ferently to male and female interviewers. As we tum now to the various paradigms of that you'll need to deal with them regardless of In the conventional view of science. we'll see some of the ways in which whether or not you reveal that you're a researcher. ences of power and status separate the researcher implicit assumption about the writers and readers that ongoing concern has worked itself out. experimental and survey designs. Broom. or field Sociologists often look at these sorts of re. (Notice that there is a similar. Thus. about. See the Such problems do not tend to arise in other types of from the subjects of research. surveys. pressed. (2) in a home. for example. namics in question-with an emphasis on her side how service workers balance their relationships with management Social researchers often refer to the concerns of the relationships. but you should realize let's take the issue one step further. these implicit assumptions about researcher supe- There are no black-and-white rules for resolv. Moreover. you might act differently as a researcher depth interviews with cancer patients. amined the impact of gender when conducting in- ering room-service meals. implicitly assumed. but we can be lationships as power or status relationships. a much deeper understanding of her subjects than Sherman's observations and conclusions came from months less shelter. in the sense formants made her uncomfortable and then pressed hotel service staff must deal with both supervisors and consumers. Prostate found out otherwise. They're not so crude as to say they're superior to riority. the people being studied do. Did it matter and many other tasks that the guests in luxury hotels expect.) Research in Real Life feature "Class Acts: Service research-surveys and experiments. There is a cor. When we discussed of textbooks. She examined why certain in- and their relationships with guests. from her interviewing them further. housekeeping. even when the demands of the two conflict. conscious of it and take it into account in under. When the early European anthropologists set ample of field research on status. Should you provide transportation? Sure. notes explaining why the project would not profit guest in aluxury hotel and the room service and other staff who serve tists). that one of the cult mem. Put differently. As I designs the questions. she gained experience for guests. such assumptions can be prob. experimental designs in Chapter 8. In lishment of group solidarity. or (3) in a social welfare office. Whereas the natives "believed" in responding problem at a social level. Her im- in those different settings. for example. the researcher The more sodal researchers have gone into pose someone wants to borrow money to buy a standing what we have observed. their subjects.

.

and a sampling of paradigms that direct different ject under study than you do. support. If you wish to study dishwashers in a restau- will use this example and others to discuss some rant. conduct of research is nowhere more explicitly rec. researchers and the people they're observing. tion you get from informants. or you can meet In studying a formal group. which can affect what they say to yond simply learning what's so. How Teamster's Union. To round out the picture." information.) welfare laws to offset the shift in federal policy. Keep in mind that the impression realize that your choice can influence your sub- tailored to Maori ways of doing things. find it useful to discuss the group with one or more You might contact a participant with whom you tions on campus to enlist broad student and faculty and Anita Gibbs (2006) report. the latter groups will Both qualitative and quantitative methods can research. They at. filling in your knowledge of contact with the people to be studied rather sim- received these waivers have provided evidence usually deliberate in framing a variety of paradigms the subject and learning what others have said ple and straightforward. they succeeded. (See the Tips 1997 legislative session opened. Perhaps you feel comfortable and gain that person's assistance. or you might find that one of members of the state legislature. shaped to some extent by the administrators' Ultimately. student-researchers were on hand to point out the Field Research fadlitate later observations of the group. When erroneous or mislead- ing data were introduced into the discussions. Members of the political group in our example unaware of the influence. creating the initial impression that high-level administrators. what they "know" may influence the way you observe and inter- Some researchers speak of emancipatory is probably a mixture of fact and point of view. They compiled existing research relevant Maori culture shapes not only the purposes of such have a friend who is a member. hang around self-sufficiency. This section ied. spe. undertaking direct observations. In dealing with members of the group as in. you might busy streets. and Longhurst 2000: 47) ognized than in the case of kaupapa Maori research. tended committee meetings and lobbied legislators for yourself. This initial impression education as an effective route out of poverty. hams (2005: 284) define as "first and foremost a (as well as members of opposing political groups) Second. you would Many of the social processes appropriate to an alternative to work training requirements. your initial impressions of the university will be errors and offer corrections. beginning with how researchers prepare for work in the field. Let's assume further that you're not tend to play. which Ardha Daniell and Carol Wood. levant literature. As we saw in self to the participants as a researcher. that you do not know a of observing social action as it occurs has subtle to develop an identity with the people to be stud- great deal about it. and that you'll identify your- though important variations. whether we're conscious of it be well advised to begin with a search of the re. You should also be wary about the informa. cial considerations in doing this kind of research. zation called Empower and by making presenta. This choice is likely to you may be an undercover FBI agent is unlikely to have a couple of important consequences. on this. organization. is the most effec. In the case of the student political cially important in qualitative research between the purpose of benefiting disadvantaged groups. ers who have already studied it or with anyone else contact with the people. including public gatherings. Anaru Eketone. New Zealand. in the development of emancipatory research and undertake field research on a campus political you do it will depend. . Although they may views. The formants. the purpose of the is likely to be more effective if your relationship your informants can introduce you. a political outcome. the seemingly simple process role of complete participant. field research are open enough to make your Empirical studies of welfare participants who or not. Whenever you wish to make more-formal a form of participatory action research devel. you might researcher. may carry over into your later effort. and they note similarities Suppose for the moment that you've decided to contact with the people you plan to study. In particular. As Shayne Walker. personal knowledge of the sub. an adherence to informants (discussed in Chapter 7). that you're studying a university and begin with on a one-to-one basis. wish to discuss the student political group with oth. Along the way we've seen some examples that illustrate field research in ac. Welfare recipients So far in this chapter we've examined the kinds of topics appropriate to qualitative field research. all our thoughts occur within and are As is true of all research methods. espe- emancipatory research Research conducted for of the ways you might prepare yourself before as a dishwasher. The method of collecting data conformed role. then. with the informant extends beyond your research and Tools feature "Establishing Rapport" for more actively engaged in the process of modifying state cemed. Especially if you decide to take on the people you want to study. we tum now to specific ideas and techniques for conducting field would be unlikely to provide completely unbiased research project and encourage students and fac- benefit to oppressed people. If you wish tive way to stay out of poverty and achieve The impact of researcher paradigms on the in Appendix A. you might simply join the group. sheets and other research reports that would be of your research. the students were study was established by those most directly con. for example. In a someone who is. you make on the informant. oped within the indigenous Maori community of likely to be familiar with it. to enrich the observation of social life. First. in general. about it. identifying yourself as a The students began by establishing an organi. you might approach to the issue and established relationships with research but also its processes and practices. but it goes well be. the most direct method would be to get a job rapport An open and trusting relationship. the role you establish sequent observations. you must find a way give them some explanation of the purpose of your a member of that group. The authors focus on Preparing for the Field There are many ways to establish your initial tant to tell you about plans to organize through the the study of disability. even as seen from its general philosophical context. of students or faculty. shaped by paradigms. types of research efforts. Qualitative field researchers have been un. (Quoss. In the next phase of your research. just be there. In making direct. on the role you in. (Library research is discussed at length a mass demonstration. you'll be required to As you can see.314 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Conducting Qualitative Field Research • 315 assistance AFDC program to attend college as Chapter 2. Cooney. which will differ quite a bit from those in Wyoming were allowed to pursue postsecondary have more direct. you should already be probably look on you as somehow aligned with the be used to pursue this goal. you. quite familiar with it. pret events subsequently-especially if you're research. relevant to the legislators' deliberations. and you should understand administration. faculty members might be reluc- the subjects' point of view. This aspect of your preparation the groups' leaders. you should take care that your initial Although you'll probably have many options The students prepared and distributed fact implications derived from the analysis of data were discussions do not compromise or limit later aspects in making your initial contact with the group. group. you must establish a rapport with them. in part. if the administrators approve of your process of producing knowledge which will be of tion. Before making your first contact with ulty to cooperate with you. By the time the study of foster care. formal contact with the early feminist research. For example. the Conducting Qualitative For example.) to observe patterns in jaywalking. Suppose. to Maori practices. for example. the student group. If you wish to observe that education.

and testing it. viewees were often reluctant to call on relatives for proceed smoothly and naturally.lf you can get them to relax and enjoy terviewer wanders along with the local inhabit- interviews are more appropriate to field research. Don't argue with your subjects. At the same general direction for the conversation and pursues Establishing Rapport 2. their own stories of their lived world. Qualitative Interviewing They elaborate in this way: add it to your bag of tricks as a field researcher. questions and record their answers. "You can That means that each time you repeat the basic tions subtly biases the answers we get. which will increase their willingness 4. All too often. Sometimes it's appropriate to ask people enon you are studying . Some people are more The traveler explores the many domains of the servation. to burst Although it was important for new immigrants to same time. in the United States. must be fully familiar with the interviewing.. These are the kinds of as a "traveler. On the other As the baseball legend Yogi Berra said. giving only what you believe would be an see a lot just by observing"-provided that you're process of gathering information. not to judge and how it makes sense to them-whether it works for you or We've already discussed interviewing in second model. designed throughout the project. because ably too much. Say that yourself that your genuine purpose is to understand their world depth interviewing. Be relaxed and appropriate to the setting. it's almost always vital that you be able that Salvadoran gender norms put women immi- information from the other person or (b) to answer questions they ing more than 5 percent of the time. Keep reminding discoveries that can emerge from open-ended. if you aren't interested in learning general style or at least find a way to relax with whatever style is roaming freely around the territory.. however. however. for several reasons. Wording questions is a might eliminate their cooperation altogether or the action is and simply watching and listening. especially if your may have about you and your research. Be an attentive listener rather than atalker. along with personal obser. the way we ask ques- significantly affect their behavior. asks questions that lead the subjects to tell Herbert and Riene Rubin ( 1995: 43) describe the and your own. In surveys. The continuous nature of qualitative in- Suppose.. in. she had discovered plan of inquiry." ral human process. At the same time. questions to be asked. may result in a warm welcome be a useful technique. asking for help would put them in debt to specific topics raised by the respondent. answers. that's prob- to establish rapport with those you're observing. regardless of your San Francisco. questionnaires really being interested. tricky business. like the qualitative interview Contrasted with survey into a meeting of an organized crime syndicate and have a support structure of family members already survey interviewer. and similar fac. Sometimes we put the question in a particu- ception. Menjivar also discovered respondent does most of the talking. Actually have agenuine interest in understanding the people you're understand people better if you don't start out feeling superior wanders through the landscape and enters into applies to qualitative field interviewing.) Although you may collect a stated purpose. Pretending to be interested is not the same as formal or informal than others. that you want to find the observations you wish to use. Or. If you're talk- In qualitative field research. spot observations of a full-blown riot will lack terviewing means that the questioning is re- out why a group of students is rioting and pillaging tors. subject possesses specific information and that the need to explain your research purpose in a nonthreatening way. you'll probably enjoy the interaction yourself. and it seems simple enough to study. it may result a much more complex system of social processes but not a set of questions that must be asked with in your being totally ostracized or worse. you face an ethical dilemma. rather Asking questions and noting answers is a natu- than prepared in advance and locked in stone. grants in an especially difficult situation.. you come closer to good. The in- are rigidly structured. Your decisions in this and other matters indicated. for example. analyzing it. Rapport they were largely prohibited from seeking the help Steinar Kvale (1996: 3-5) offers two metaphors might be defined as a open and trusting relationship. most comfortable for them. ganized crime. field research can involve more-active a clear and convincing model of the phenom- lar context that omits altogether the most relevant will probably be largely determined by the purpose inquiry. By contrast. the nature of what you're studying. While you don't have to agree with of men they weren't related to. including the topics to be covered. You should not remain time. and continuous. Menjivar found that her inter. they may be rioting them important enough to study. and structures than we would have imagined. Design in qualitative interviewing is iterative. ing. interviewer's job is to dig it out. Before she was done. she felt in-depth interviews would is an interaction between an interviewer and a (Makes sense to me.316 a Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Conducting Qualitative Field Research a 317 help. And ants. This gives to them. . iterative. Ask somebody. Ideally. about the experiences of Salvadoran immigrants in Unlike a survey. This allows the interview to a set of topics to be discussed in depth rather than based on the use of standardized questions. It prob. On the one hand. the qualitative interviewer. distinction as follows: "Qualitative interviewing design is flexible. for example. You'll be able to hear and Chapter 9. but you should talk primarily (a) to elicit more those helping them out. however. a separate treatment. But how do you 3. the interviewer them or cause them any problems. Sometimes hand. In fact. Your on-the. and much of what was said there 1. Alittle humility may help with this. paying attention. particular words and in a particular order. you should never obligate themselves sexually. you'll have achieved the rapport you need.. we put our respondent under pressure to look acceptable explanation may involve outright de.." The first model assumes that the Let's assume that you'll be identifying yourself as a researcher. conversations with the people encountered. (1995:46-47) questioning on how students feel about the dean's Previous field research offers no fixed rule. field research is a matter of going where a little cautious. but you must also take ethical considerations something if you don't know why people are riot. toward the infamous ruling. as I've already winnowing it. This will work best if you not. Here again. of course. they A qualitative interview is essentially a con- might jeopardize those family members who were versation in which the interviewer establishes a here illegally and living in poverty. respondent in which the interviewer has a general great deal of information about students' attitudes from people who are flattered that a scientist finds vations. When Cedlia Menjivar (2000) wanted to learn recent ruling that requires students always to carry methodological or ethical-to follow in this regard. the mute. At the ably wouldn't be a good idea. of your study. lest they seem to for interviewing: the interviewer as a "miner" or do that? any points of view expressed by your subjects. you might consider another activity and not waste their time the interaction. as unknown territory or with maps. ing. less-structured what things look like from the point of view of those you're observ. is different enough to demand to open up to you. You might be tempted to focus your into account. on campus. You'll argue with them nor try to change their minds. a qualitative interview The Practice of Soda! Research with them on campus. in the you are there to learn about them and understand them. Your appearance as a researcher. observations include in-depth interviews and interactions. and you'll do well to take on their country. the qualitative interview is based on announce that you're writing a term paper on or. terviewing you'll do in connection with field ob- them a sense of self-worth. Be Telling them the complete purpose of your research In part. The in- observing and can communicate that interest to them.

you need to be able to listen. As an interviewer. More generally. and people will actually regard you as a great research interviewing enables you to find out. The aikido master never ing off into a story about the respondent's uncle. He was the engineer in charge of and detecting all those questions you should have tion. their majors. ?") succeeds. needs to make the other person seem interest. Herbert and Riene Rubin offer several ways and needs to be 'taught. learn to take what he providing the kind of information you're looking interviewing. Interviewing: Doing the actual interviews expectantly. resists an opponent's blow but instead accepts it. is one work at their own pace. you need to be on most basic and obvious aspects of that situation: "A ing may have been difficult. you'll probably find that much of 3. edly important aspects of your research interest. of course. than talking. At I started messing around with a Macintosh say next." including the asker of questions is the quintessential student role" review them to be sure they had accurately ex.. A smoother transition might subsequent ones. who does not understand. the materials ing. The second attempt ("So is your suggest that researchers should adopt the role interviews. your attention is spent on thinking up interesting like your uncle. Steinar Kvale (1996: 88) details seven stages in coming an engineer? The discussion of probes in Chapter 9 provides Because field research interviewing is so much the complete interviewing process: a useful guide to getting answers in more depth RESP: Yeah. He each of us wants to come across as an interest. main interest . She or he is 'ignorant' that would probably have attended spoken inter. really hear each other. work as a laborer on a construction job.. If you watch yourself which you'll accomplish your purpose. When Nicole Ison (2009) set out to an analogous skill. It doesn't work merely to ask RESP: I have an uncle who was voted the best attention to in further observations. Did you talk to him about your be. and finding out what you should pay more sounds abrupt. researchers must keep without biasing later answers. You'll go into your interviews RESP: Actually. rather than wanting to hear what the the person's attention to an area more relevant to journals. avoiding the frustration that you are not interested. (Do this in ordinary conversations. I'll stress YOU: What are you majoring in? it is easier to maintain a conversational flow views with a reasonably clear idea of what you the need to review your observational notes every RESP: Engineering. and let the person you're interviewing YOU: So is your main interest civil engineering. Although you may set out to conduct inter. 2. Reporting: Telling others what you've learned . Instead of trying to halt your re. pressed their intended communications. Subjects could create their responses and Consider this hypothetical example in which to control a "guided conversation. views and the concepts to be explored good listener. Thematizing: Clarifying the purpose of the inter- interviewers need the skills involved in being a graduated from high school. in particular." evoked by your initial questions should shape your ing.. Designing: Laying out the process through Learn to say things like "How is that?" "In what spent eight years working his way up from ing. "We have been talking research is its flexibility. recording especially effective questions more involved?" The more abrupt the transi- fully to the answer. the subjects could ested. yourself in and must be helped to grasp even the e-mail interviews. interviews. rate in a particular direction tells them that you are.. term plan is . Later. like normal conversation. so he went to a normal conversation. engineer in Arizona in 2005. That is. In particular. the desire to appear study times you'll need the skill of subtly directing the when I was in high school. naturalistic investigator. Often. replay them as a useful preparation for interviewee has to say. listen care. Perhaps most are simply There's something we can learn in this regard Notice how the interview begins by wander. field ing by accident.318 111 Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Conducting Qualitative Field Research • 319 for some other reason. If you've recorded the through. Analyzing: Determining the meaning of gath- with some general (or specific) questions you want cal engineering-computers.' This role of watcher and views. conversationalist. now let's talk about fathers. He needed a job when he reminding themselves that they are not having 1. future interviews. and my long. one of the special strengths of field night-making sense out of what you've observed. Be more interested than interesting. by being interested-and by listening more 7. 2006: 69). Most the ability to "control" conversations in this fash. the answers getting a clearer feel for the situation you're study- engineering? about mothers. ion. "You mentioned your mother did not care preestablished questions and record the answers. terviews. interpret its meaning for your RESP: Yeah. 'ITansitions should want to ask. Start asking such questions the has an agenda that he or she wants to get either to dig into the earlier answer or to redirect It was written up in most of the engineering next time you interview. Even in those cases where typ. or are you more interested 4. asked but didn't. you need to ask a question. listening-we're too busy thinking of what we'll ered materials in relation to the purpose of the answered and some topics you want addressed. asking them to elabo. until he decided to go to college the next time you chat with someone you don't ing a consideration of the ethical dimension be an example of that?" Learn to look and listen and come back nearer the top. your inquiry. ?") fails. At the same time. (1995: 123) think. How did you come to choose be smooth and logical. from one topic to another. that's great. YOU: Gee. that will make a good impression. worthwhile person. people love to talk to anyone who's really inter. Stopping their line of conversation tells them the alert for "distractions" that point to unexpect. YOU: I see. interesting is counterproductive.) In both qualitative and quantitative research. Her solution was to conduct in the direction appropriate to your purposes. because we're not really 5. and talk almost at the same time.. their speech difficulties created or she has just said and branch that comment back for. we don't tally passive receiver. Transcribing: Creating a written text of the fill in the silence. In normal conversations. fashion. the entire field research process. the more it sounds like the interviewer general inquiry. field from the martial arts. It's important for field researchers to develop who does not understand the situation you find a special problem. The interviewer 6. know too well. YOU: I see. He said that he got into engineer. you're interested in why college students chose following: (Lofland et al. Properly done. joins with it. Now the student is of the "socially acceptable incompetent" when conduct in -depth interviews with young people spondent's line of discussion. includ- ways?" "How do you mean that?" "What would the bottom. you can't afford to be a to. and then subtly redirects it in a more dent's own choice of major ("Did you talk to your John Lofland and his colleagues (2006: 69-70) we tend to think of using face-to-face or telephone appropriate direction. and then frame another question developing the new civic center in Tucson. almost by definition. offer yourself as someone with cerebral palsy. In short. things to say-contributions to the conversation in some other branch of engineering? interviews At the same time. I'm leaning more toward electri. Verifying: Checking the reliability and validity of flow of conversation. Field interviewing requires uncle . In the same be.. The first attempt to focus things back on the stu. Interviewing needs to be an integral part of If you can limit the number of main topics. you'll need to review your notes on in- how you performed in school-was your father Instead. joining in for the excitement.

of course. of course. However. the group interview presents aspects of social processes. several advantages. the interviewer has to interviewing. record what you "know" has hap- new product. Margareta Hyden (2005) have used the technique interview along with some of Zerbib's memos. Be a new computer that not only does word process. In Silent Racism. about politics. Other. In a focus group. Just (1988: 47) brought together in a private. any other type of interview. white people. tion (a tentative observation). something you can practice any time you want. Karin Aronsson. comfortable envi. This can generate In your notes. Even tape re- (1988: 48) qualitative method. much more than in Consequently. troubled industries. issues brought in the interview. that you recorder. include both your empirical In a hypothetical market-research example. for example. The focus group method. It is low in cost. overdirecting the interview and the interviewees. nuclear power.S. it's vital to make full and accurate political and market research but is used for other litical issues. illustrates the possibilities for doing social research as your observations will represent a sample of all ronment to engage in a guided discussion of some In addition to these advantages. observations and your interpretations of them. focus Practice on your friends. home. and would not have emerged from interviews with tionnaire items for a subsequent survey. the acceptability and salability ics frequently bring out aspects of the topic that addition. This means that the participants do not 4. typically more than one focus conducive environment. microwave oven. and dynamic within the group is a major challenge. Focus groups afford the researcher less income groups. Although focus group research differs from Of course. Person X spoke out in opposition to a proposal l. thinking is also called group interviewing. It allows will be too atypical to offer any generalizable As we've seen. Richard Krueger points to five advantages of outspoken members of the group. Fortunately.320 111 Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Conducting Qualitative Field Research 111 321 basis of relevance to the topic under study. Carolina Overlien. is essentially a group is convened in a given study because of the researcher on the scene of the action. method is the presence of an observing. group dynam. form with the opinions and decisions of the most pened and what you "think" has happened. control than individual interviews. and the like but focus groups: compounded by the possibility that only one or what they are. The discussion must be conducted in a The greatest advantage of the field research and observation. and you want to know whether people 3. Like other social research techniques. data analysis. Bar. . erations might figure into the selection. take over leadership of the group (an interpreta- You figure the new computer will sell for about 2. lenge. The technique is frequently used by market researchers. Difference between groups can be have focused on studying people in the process of statistically represent any meaningful population." the media context within which we think and talk subjects will express themselves. Interviewers need to be aware of this phenomenon made by a group leader (an observation). This danger is sure to identify these different kinds of notes for ing.000." social environment. David Morgan ( 1993) suggests that focus sample of your observations. When that's not bara Trepagnier (2006) used focus groups to exam. It has flexibility. serious danger that a single group of 7 to 12 people corders and cameras cannot capture all the relevant structured. semi. Given Krueger also notes some disadvantages of the successfully for extended discussions of sexuality. Notice that group of consumers to evaluate a product or discuss uct's name. Data are difficult to analyze. Nevertheless. you might note that also contains a fax machine. extract from an in -depth interview with a woman gether. in- the likely cost of The Compulator. the purpose of the study is to explore 5. This William Gamson (1992) used focus groups to In a focus group interview. your focus group focus group method. devices can be quite useful to the field researcher. cally regarded as an "in-depth" research technique. a Because they center on a particular topic and Annotated with Researcher Memos" provides an focus group A group of subjects interviewed to- couple of the participants might start joking about take relatively little time. Adding to the chal. however: among Swedish teenagers in a youth detention terviewing improves with practice. Although our discussions of field research so far methods. citizens frame their views of po. CD and DVD player/ two people sometimes dominate the conversation. it's participants would probably be limited to upper. In imagine that you're thinking about introducing a vened for a firsthand observation of the process of which is the tendency for people in a group to con. George Silverman (2005). is that the interviewer must resist tion). film director. researchers sometimes bring peo. the problem of group conformity or groupthink. similar consid. and that you think you heard the leader $28. It is based on structured. for example. nor 5. you can't observe everything. your notes will represent a topic-in this case. typically 5 to 15 people are other forms of qualitative field research. The idea. However. It has speedy results. 1. The technique is a socially oriented re. Groups are difficult to assemble. groups are adapting to new communication modal- 2. Recording Observations ple into the laboratory for qualitative interviewing rather than to describe or explain in any definitive 6. search method capturing real-life data in a and try to get everyone to participate fully on all the think this represents an attempt by Person X to you're thinking of calling it "The Compulator. your observations as you observe. This realization might save the manu. It has high face validity. given by Sandrine Zerbib. prompting a discussion. for example. the Arab-Israeli conflict-Gamson undertook a Letting one interviewee dominate the focus group feasible. thus bringing her or his own views into play. focus groups are typi. offers Participants in focus groups are not likely to Focus Groups be chosen through rigorous probability-sampling 3. ities. action. Having picked four issues-affirmative develop the skills of a moderator. To highlight its computing and coffee-making features. troublesome. is of The Compulator. and the illustration contains a portion of an in-depth a type of commodity. write down your notes as soon as possible ine the persistence of racism among "well-meaning content analysis of press coverage to get an idea of interview reduces the likelihood that the other afterward. to record the most pertinent ones. a discussion of telephone and online focus groups. Then the focus groups were con. which sense. but it also has its challenges. it further can you record everything you do observe. The Tips and Tools feature "Interview Transcript individuals. If possible. take notes on purposes as well. individuals systematically and simultaneously. living their lives. for example. In a side conversation. facturer great embarrassment later on. face-to-face with those we wish to understand. and coffeemaker. or unstructured interviews. in both direct observation and data-collection technique is frequently used in examine how U. For example. As with all other aspects of field research. Let's suppose that you've invented people discussing issues with their friends. served by focus groups. although both of those the researcher/interviewer to question several insights. spreadsheets. Your prospects might be well 4. Moderators require special skills. Controlling the notes of what goes on. In possible observations. The subjects are selected on the would not have been anticipated by the researcher groups are an excellent device for generating ques. for example. who ask a the results of leaving out one letter from a prod. comment to that effect in response to the opposi- are likely to buy it. other words.

trying to get is on their show for ever and ever . I know this method sounds logical. Who had the to meet their deadlines. If you've just spent eight hours know. because you served in other professions. 12:00-1 :00 they say. however. you have a lot of extra strikes against one quantifiable measurement of how well she does her job and. especially if the job. And people upstairs don't know what the circum. It you have to-it's untrustworthy. parties. difficulties in women directing. Some of your most important observations can that are most likely to be useful for analysis-age. The longer you delay. so therefore. she needs to build a certain reputation. yesterday? (Remembering what you were wearing out all the details you can recall right after the ob- men . Put yourself and rewrite your notes in more detail. mentioned earlier. because either you don't have a seems that the challenges that Joy is facing are not a matter of a par- point. here is the woman. prepare a form in which observations of these City. in. they go off.. your first de- you can't just do an average job. and other social Thursday August 26. you'll be able to recall things accurately and fully. they're all used to working like a well-oiled machine and record the location of participants easily. If more harshly. try this experiment. Recall the last three or inspiration from newspaper reporters who undergo good producer or you have so many pressures that you can't see ticular individual. you this process (2005: 349): plan to select and use only the gold. and during that time you're of the situation. events." written during her review of the interview later on. the same sorts of hardships then write their stories straight or your script is lousy.) been coping with a disastrous flood. with each interview starting at count 0. You know. assess how the interviewee feels with the questions. gatherings.. To this end... or to do something . computerized vance. [It seems that Joy is talking about the particularities ofthe film the crewmembers on the set.] on and so forth. In the first stage. girlfriend. Imean it's all about trying to get. good note taking re. Generally. you do this soon after the events you've observed. Ineed to keep asking about the dynamics between my interviewees and yesterday may even be a challenge. they can sabotage you. Jeffrey Kidder reports on about 685 book pages. but it takes stances are. to move sets. it's usually a good idea to take notes important" may jog your memory on something aword that was inaudible from the interview. Some guidelines follow. others gender. mean- analyses from this study on women film directors. or best friend was wearing should record. and ress. speedy han. Anumber in brackets represents Second. The cinematographer has the highest sta- Even if you pride yourself on having a pho. sketchy notes (words and phrases) in order to Realize that most of your field notes will not keep abreast of what's happening. by taking a long time to light. they can resist your directing and adaily life? your recording of unanticipated events and aspects and opinions. then you could compiled into my field notes. since he has problems with specific skills. the fact that she is a woman is perceived as boyfriend.. Quite the contrary. you know. there is that aspect learn even more from Lofland et al. women. Explore other interviews about reasons tographic memory. because people are likely to things that don't seem important at the outset. and the report goes to dling of anticipated observations can give you more answered by normal talk within the social world. on None of this advance preparation should limit truest glimpses into messenger beliefs. something different" and and accurately. I unobtrusively ticipation at a mass meeting. because . you know when you have to walk on the set for the first ent sections of the meeting room.997 percent of the ore is wasted. and they are not about to fire acinematographer that ing notes. through informal interviews. you know.] interviews unless specific request from the interviewee. You may need to take some get the opportunity to do that.. and. you don't want to know that. casual conversations provided the R: What is challenging for women directors on adaily experience. because Ibecome more nervous about the interview process. the less likely ing that 99. elaboration without having to probe. Time seems to be name five of the actors or actresses. her answer] researcher locate a passage quickly when he or she reviews the interview. out of sow's ear. But take heart: Even the richest gold ore yields Chapter 13 will present extensive. by preparing standardized recording forms in ad. as ob- longest hair? Or can you remember what your Third. so. Need body language R: Hum . quickly. I avoided formal in- they can. You know. and making your life a horror. Review literature on women in high management position. It is the number that appeared on the more specific and more personal experiences without leading transcribing machine. She is in adouble bind situation where whether she four movies you saw that you really liked. They good field research. did it feel . social class. 2006: 110-17.. don't trust your memory any more than sire afterward will likely be to get some sleep. sometimes they can be horrible. To illustrate this clothes. Yet. for example. might anticipate the characteristics of pedestrians of the details. In a study of jaywalking.. and try. you'll inevitably wonder how much you you than the average guy who has similar problems. and you have to make asilk purse complains or not. "Oh. (You can observing and making notes on how people have gain into this position where you do an incredible job. and so forth-and In his study of bike messengers in New York cover an area 18 feet square-the equivalent of will become apparent as your observations prog. Upon returning home. And particularly since they are so many. terviews and instead allowed my questions to be R: OK. day and during races. Careful obser- J: Yeah. Also.322 '" Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Conducting Qualitative Field Research '" 323 might develop a symbolic shorthand in advance I obtained the vast majority of data for this article to speed up recording. If you take notes during observation. interview schedule so that my interviewee answers with more the front [368] office. because she's a quires careful and deliberate attention and involves over a long period. behave differently if they see you taking down They may tum out to be significant after all. you know. nor do they want to know experience with field research in general. you may need to take that is important. Imean .. or J: Surviving. It makes it twice as hard to woman let's not hire any more women. what about on the set did you experience. in field research you can't be really sure industry. you have to [347] do this job that First. Could you develop a little bit on that? [I need to work on my wasting time. and sometimes you don't [I need to review the literature on institutional discrimination. Then go off by be reflected in your final report on the project.. and that goes on a report. that 30 grams of gold can be hammered out to be anticipated before you begin the study. During the work- time. or a drink.. Alternatively. volume of information. the act of recording the details of something "un- felt treated differently? [I am trying to get her to speak about Note: Ris the interviewer and J is the director-subject. most of your notes will be "wasted. .. these data were with Researcher Memos about. Now. so you should record even it is even harder for women but does not explain it. There are not that many opportunities and in order to keep tus on the set under the director. ethnicity. a lot of women have commiserated construct a numbered grid representing the differ. and women are more visible than a handicap.) servational session? The general guideline is yes. Like vation and note taking can be tiring. in unique positions.lt is difficult to do it unobtrusively. For studying audience par. So take a ton of notes. oh yeah. ideologies.] either during the observation or as soon afterward you've had a chance to review and analyze a great to direct that she can maintain or improve her reputation. You're already familiar with the process of tak. and so on and so on and so freedom to observe the unanticipated. and you everything they say or do.] did people make it clear that you were a woman. dry just knocks your socks off all the time. just as you already have at least informal self-discipline to put it into practice. She thinks that [Methods (note to myselfforthe next interviews): Try to avoid phone as possible.. The numbers help the in stages. Sometimes you can make note taking easier variables can be recorded easily. it's a good idea to take notes of what's important and what's unimportant until working. she will not be treated equal to men. you might want to took notes throughout the day and at social Interview Transcript Annotated J: Yeah. you the sketchy notes should allow you to recall most only about 30 grams of gold per metric ton. it involves excitement or tension and if it extends back to the next thing.. It is only by continuing for conflict between them. Is it really worth the effort to write are a woman and they look at it. to do agreat job so that you are invited that this guy is a real bastard.

life on Clay Street. amount of observation. the Even without having heard the episodes How. and take pains to address it. ing insights into the nature of human affairs in all act that led to his being fired. but field research typically can be undertaken can be a chronic disease with acute episodes or someone else's. It meant spiking Barry's beer behaviors and for examining social processes over measurements are also often very personal. Or just pick a sunny day on voting behavior of the total electorate. They considered themselves be superficial. to what through the ritual of a duel with Al." this charge is seldom lodged you could describe your friend as middle-of-the- their rich complexity. The kinds of comprehensive measure- to be engaged in an organized research project to descriptions of a large population.C. actually measure what they're supposed to rather about "toughness" as a fundamental ingredient of Field research. Neverthe. variability of the person's ability to cope and ell refers to in this passage. It meant against field research. as liberal and conservative) that are generally un- (Garant 1980: 2167) campus. for example. literal sense. Les into and the communal nature of science means that Field research can be relatively inexpensive as implications his or her death will have for conflict with Lonnie. on the other hand. and. you can modify your As I suggested earlier. Observing casual -Fear of losing one's dignity-losing con. As such. greater validity than do survey and experimen. For Barry it meant telling lies in the depth of understanding it permits. researchers who use field research design at any time. Instead of recording some specific characteristics of the people into how political attitudes are formed. they improve with ments. Other social science research methods may significant others. you're Common fears that may impede the coping June and Sam had less to fight about. however. ertheless. Arlene into conflict with their colleagues will help them in that regard. that strong. for example. working-class neigh.rable validity. can pose problems of than something else. You can do the same thing at a shop. ping mall or on a busy street comer. would fight. independent people who would not let Like all research methods. Suppose you were to characterize your is a matter of dependability: If you made the same borhood in Washington. etc. give detailed illustrations. Being a fighter led Ted into often sort out their own biases and points of view.: best friend's political orientations according to measurement again and again. staff. -Fear of alienation-from significant set of statistics on the median number of fistfights research for that matter). through these field observations than it would in a tive than who. Reliability. proficiency comes with tion of interactions in pricey Paris nightclubs. thereby creating occurring during a specified period. would you get the everything you know about him or her. others and health care givers. for example. the chief strength of this method I judge your friend's political orientation depends ple of field research examples to see why this is so. tients' coping with cancer: rough with Bobbi. it's -Fear of contagion-that cancer is of field research. the study could provide important insights available to surveys and experiments. How superficial and not really valid. In addition. As discussed earlier. Individual researchers ever the occasion should arise. being qualitative rather than quantitative. Phyllis at the bowling alley. Moreover. and try observing and less. like all worthwhile skills. upon others for activities of daily living and live. just as your judgment depends "Being there" is a powerful technique for gain. field researchers commonly who pass by. may consequently become a burden. they can provide the basis for further research- that observing and recording are professional skills lidity and reliability are both qualities of measure. you have the distinct judgment is unavoidably linked to the researcher's sive. field research tal measurements. certainly it's unlikely to of Qualitative Field Research in these respects. research. Remember the issues of validity and reliability. periments. greatly on my own.324 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Strengths and Weaknesses of Qualitative Field Research • 325 Like other aspects of field research (and all Or you may wish to undertake participant observa. on your political orientation. not as easily initiate a survey or an experiment. Observations and conceptualizations such as specifying concepts. Even if you and I had . Validity concerns whether measurements Now listen to what Joseph Howell has to say Reliability practice. Let's review a cou. for example. when. which are often criticized as upon occasion. practice. however. You might start political discussions in laundromats. a white. ments available to the field researcher tap a depth practice observation and recording. although I might feel that I've been observing this nurse reports about the impediments to pa. process for the person with cancer can include though if pressed they both hinted that they. The nature of the research project may require constantly adjust may require a dependency impression that Clay Street is a tough place to own politics. qualitative techniques are conscious of this issue always prepared to engage in field research. find a shady spot. that may result in periodic stressful periods. sessment of your friend's politics would appear to selves as fighters in both the figurative and have conside. Recall that va. members of a club are fairly conservative. Conceivably. pushing Bubba around and at times getting Flexibility is another advantage of field a fire-breathing radical. then. helplessness and hopelessness. If a researcher reports that the by one researcher with a notebook and a pencil. reliability. such a This is not to say that field research is never expen. it's prudent to be wary of purely descrip- require costly equipment or an expensive research -Fear of incapacitation-because cancer (1973: 292) tive measurements in field research-your own. an Whereas other research methods may be chal. -Fear of death-for the patient. You can be more trusting of compara- a large number of trained observers. both qualitative and quantitative. To assess field research further. It meant going lenged as "superficial. You don't have not an appropriate means for arriving at statistical transmissible and/or inherited. Your as- Strengths and Weaknesses same result? Let's see how field research stacks up Most of the people on Clay Street saw them. qualitative field research Validity another observer would characterize your friend's has distinctive strengths and weaknesses. with sleeping pills and bashing him over the time. Listen. As I've themselves be pushed around. even with the same Field research seems to provide measures with a fighter meant battling the welfare department already indicated. as compared with surveys and ex- practicing in almost any situation. and the near conflict with Peg's brothers. let's focus on these are valuable in their own right. D. Nev- well. field research is especially effec. and cussing out social workers and doctors tive for studying subtle nuances in attitudes and Although they are in-depth. off his boss and refusing to hang the door. for example. whereas you could the following: too. being politics the same way you did. trol of all bodily functions and being totally of meaning in concepts such as common fears of by volunteering to take the minutes at committee would not yield trustworthy estimates of the future vulnerable. For Bobbi. head with a broom. That "toughness" shows far more powerfully tive evaluations: identifying who is more conserva- Expensive recording equipment may be needed. cancer patients and "toughness" (or concepts such meetings. road. We couldn't be sure. The nice thing about field research is Field research has several weaknesses as well. These examples point to the superior validity you can begin practicing now and can continue First.

or that change • Conducting field research responsibly involves Is it ethical to take sides or to avoid taking sides over time. As a field researcher. The following terms are defined in context in the Participation observation brings special ethical observer and the researcher's relationships with chapter and at the bottom of the page where the term While the audit trail is suggested to counter concerns with it. how will you select and train the As I've noted repeatedly. validity but less reliability. other observers? raise ethical issues. and (usually) its inexpensiveness. in some cases. and how to negotiate your relationships haps recalling troubling experiences. field note-taking plans if that's likely to be difficult (for • Is it ethical to be in a setting or situation but In field research. you may whether to observe as an outsider or as a partid- at the back of the book. Also. tended case method.326 • Chapter 10: Qualitative Field Research Proposing Social Research: Qualitative Field Research • 327 different political orientations. you should indicate the kind of study you plan to do. focus group rapport powerful tool for social scientists. there are other logistical issues to be • Is it ethical to see a severe need for help and flexibility. Topics Appropriate for Field Research generally not appropriate for arriving at statistical agree pretty much in ranking the relative conserva. such as naturalism. Qualitative inter- possibilities for conducting field research. if so. legal behavior might very well alter what is being • Field researchers often conduct in-depth inter- FIELD R. styles or subcultures. to be strategic in 0 Field research is espedally appropriate for topics descriptions of large populations. Glenn Bowen (2009) illustrates the use of an the researcher's direct contact with subjects. field research is a potentially their confidences. • Compared with surveys and experiments. e Whenever possible. that Ethics and Qualitative Field Research As a means for both increasing and document. institutional ethnography. grounded theory reactivity a useful balance to the strengths and weaknesses of ters they observed in confidence. case studies and the ex. we would probably Is it ethical to develop a calculated stance to. involved. and research measurements generally have more example. Typically. Decisions on the coding of mants in order to gain entree to other people or Field Research interview responses would be an example. soda! worlds. cyclical processes. settlements. one that provides ers going to jail rather than reveal the private mat. are re. As this chapter has purposes from people you hate? Field research involves the direct observation of so. otherwise. Planning and con. for example. fided in you. observation. as well as discussing the ethical issues be recorded as soon afterward as possible. questions in depth. researchers bring subjects Will you be a partidpant in the events you are rect and often intimate contact with their subjects. Effective inter- doing field research. e Preparing for the field involves doing background of Part 3 present additional modes of observation tion of how participant observers should behave research. when studying people routinely engaged in criminal subjects. their inner thoughts and actions to you. your relations? and processes that are not easily quantifiable. will you identify yourself as a field research raises ethical concerns in a particu. if you're a participant not identified as a not commit yourself wholeheartedly to it? analysis are interwoven. Special Considerations in Qualitative the analysis of data. While the results of measurement searcher. Among these topics are practices. The researcher's refusal to join in such il. you are likely to find yourself e To create a focus group. you dealt with the variables know you will be recording their words? MAIN POINTS you'll examine and the ways you'll select informants Field Research • Is it ethical to get information for your own and/or people to observe. roles. Moreover. entering numerous gray areas. together and observe their interactions as they ex. risk the researcher's views that are much less structured than those This chapter has laid out a large number of different Ethics and Qualitative study and/or safety. tionship to your subjects will be. decisions in designing a quantitative survey are as in the earlier example of interviewing cancer Some Qualitative Field Research Paradigms emancipatory research naturalism explicit in the actual wording of questionnaires. Is it ethical to "pay" people with trade-offs for organizations. ethnomethodol. Conducting Qualitative Field Research experiments and surveys. be opening them up to a degree of suffering: per. they should you observe. dal phenomena in their natural settings. worked out. access to their lives and minds? sions throughout the conduct of the research and Is it ethical to "use" people as allies or infor. epi- ing the trustworthiness of qualitative research. When you ask people to reveal subjects. and partidpatory action research. case study institutional ethnography with subjects. confronting several ethical issues that arise from in a factionalized situation? sodes. conducted in survey research. as well as the times and Introduction e Among the advantages of field research are places for your observations. you must dedde is introduced. Some KEY TERMS to elusive understandings? e Among the spedal considerations involved in computer programs for qualitative data analysis field research are the various possible roles of the provide for the recording of an audit trail. researcher to those you are observing? You might say larly dramatic way. as well as in the comprehensive glossary concerns that qualitative analysis might lack rigor. and you are strictly obligated to honor ogy. encounters. • Is it ethical to talk to people when they do not Strengths and Weaknesses of Qualitative In earlier exercises. but when you examine such ethical ability to direct conversations unobtrusively. extended case method qualitative interview As we've seen. By bringing researchers into di. If you're viewing is more of a guided conversation than Field Research searchers justified in breaking the law in such cases? a search for spedfic information. patients. you are also asking them to e Field research can be guided by any one of several ethnography participatory action the reasoning behind those decisions is not always risk the public disclosure of what they have con- paradigms. We have seen cases of research. ward other humans. whether or not to identify yourself as a re- titative research. On the other hand. field research is researcher). data processing. are best studied in natural settings. tism of the members of a group. The remaining chapters Geoff Pearson (2009) examines the sticky ques. field observations should be something about how these choices may affect what mentioned by John and Lyn Lofland ( l 99 5: 6 3): recorded as they are made. It may be appropriate to describe your not respond to it directly? field research is qualitative rather than quantitative. and life- "audit trail. grounded theory. relationships. . and resolving issues of what your rela- PR9~0SINGSOCI. observing and. pant. that is. groups. ducting field research in a responsible way requires plore a spedfic topic. all forms of social research your decisions. Will you be the sole observer Obviously the severity of the crimes would affect viewing involves skills of active listening and the in the study? If not. a similar technique would be appropriate for quan. Here are some of the issues attending to these and other ethical concerns.AL RESEARCH: QUALITATIVE activities. determining how to make contact with available to social researchers. the depth of understanding it can provide." which records the researcher's deci. ethnomethodology research (PAR) obvious. its demonstrated.ESEARCH studied and.