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NATURALISTIC, QUALITATIVE

AND ETHNOGRAPHIC
RESEARCH
LOUIS COHEN, LAWRENCE
MANION & KEITH MORRISON

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER


Foundations of naturalistic, qualitative and
ethnographic inquiry
Planning naturalistic, qualitative and
ethnographic research
Features and stages of a qualitative study
Critical ethnography
Some problems with ethnographic and
naturalistic approaches

NATURALISTIC METHODS ASK . . .


What are the characteristics of a social
phenomenon?
What are the causes of the social
phenomenon?
What are the consequences of the social
phenomenon?

MAIN KINDS OF NATURALISTIC


ENQUIRY

Case study
Comparative studies
Retrospective studies
Snapshots
Longitudinal studies
Ethnography
Grounded theory
Biography
Phenomenology

MAIN METHODS OF
NATURALISTIC ENQUIRY

Participant observation
Interviews and conversations
Documents and field notes
Accounts
Notes and memos

THE QUALITATIVE PARADIGM

Humans actively construct their own meanings of situations;


Meaning arises out of social situations and is handled through
interpretive processes;
Behaviour and data are socially situated, context-related,
context-dependent and context-rich.
Realities are multiple, constructed, and holistic;
Knower and known are interactive, inseparable;
Only context-bound working hypotheses are possible;
Inquiry is influenced by the choice of the paradigm, theory and
values that guide the investigation into the problem;
Research must include thick descriptions;
The attribution of meaning is continuous and evolving over
time;
People are deliberate, intentional and creative in their actions;
History and biography intersect;
Social research needs to examine situations through the eyes
of the participants;
Researchers are the instruments of the research;

THE QUALITATIVE PARADIGM

Researchers generate rather than test hypotheses;


Researchers do not know in advance what they will see;
Humans are anticipatory beings;
Human phenomena seem to require even more conditional
stipulations than do other kinds;
Meanings and understandings replace proof;
Situations are unique;
The processes of research and behaviour are as important as the
outcomes;
People, situations, events and objects have meaning conferred
upon them rather than possessing their own intrinsic meaning;
Social research should be conducted in natural, uncontrived, real
world settings with as little intrusiveness as possible by the
researcher;
Social reality, experiences and social phenomena are capable of
multiple, sometimes contradictory interpretations;
All factors have to be taken into account;
Data are analyzed inductively;
Theory generation is derivative and grounded.

PROCESSES OF QUALITATIVE ENQUIRY


Studies must take place in their natural settings as context
influences meaning;
Humans are the research instrument;
Utilization of tacit knowledge is inescapable;
Qualitative methods sit more comfortably than quantitative
methods with the notion of the human-as-instrument;
Purposive sampling can explore the full scope of issues;
Data analysis is inductive rather than deductive;
Theory emerges (is grounded) rather than is pre-ordinate.
Research designs emerge over time;
Research outcomes are negotiated;
The natural mode of reporting is the case study;
Idiographic interpretation replaces nomothetic interpretation;
Applications are tentative and pragmatic;
Trustworthiness and its components replace conventional
views of reliability and validity.

TEN ELEMENTS OF SYMBOLIC


INTERACTIONISM
People construct their own actions they are deliberate
intentional and creative;
People attribute to, and construct meanings of, their
situations and behaviour; people impose meanings on
situations; situations themselves do not necessarily possess
intrinsic meaning.
Significance of subjective meanings and the symbols and
symbol systems (e.g. language and communication) by
which they are produced and represented;
The need to understand individuals definitions of the
situation in their terms, i.e. in any situation there are many
definitions of the situation multiple realities; the self is a
social product, constructed through interaction with
significant others which occurs in relation to multiple
reference groups;

TEN ELEMENTS OF SYMBOLIC


INTERACTIONISM
Significance of negotiation the process by which meanings
are constructed;
Significance of the natural, social context/environment/
setting in understanding meaning and meaning construction;
Situations and people are unique and individual (idiographic);
The nature of a career the moving perspective in which
people regard their own and others lives, based on the
meanings which are being formed; career includes notions
of commitment and identity;
Research must include thick description detailed accounts
of the situation and participants meanings and behaviour;
Analysis is emic rather than etic generating meaning
through presenting participants subjective accounts rather
than utilizing objective research.

ETHNOGRAPHIES CONCERN . . .
The production of descriptive cultural knowledge of a
group;
The description of activities in relation to a particular
cultural context from the point of view of the members
of that group themselves;
The production of a list of features constitutive of
membership in a group or culture;
The description and analysis of patterns of social
interaction;
The provision as far as possible of insider accounts;
The development of theory.

CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY
Whereas conventional ethnography is concerned with
what is, critical ethnography concerns itself with what
could be.
Theoretical basis in critical theory and ideology
critique.
Concerned to expose oppression and inequality in
society with a view to emancipating individuals and
groups towards collective empowerment.
Research is an inherently political enterprise:
ethnography with a political intent.
It has an explicit agenda and ethical responsibility to
promote freedom, social justice, equity and well-being.
It takes power, control and social exploitation as
problematic, and to be changed, rather than simply to
be interrogated and discovered
Its basis echoes Habermass emancipatory interest

CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY
Research and thinking are mediated by power relations;
These power relations are socially and historically
located;
Facts and values are inseparable;
Relationships between objects and concepts are fluid
and mediated by the social relations of production;
Language is central to perception;
Certain groups in society exert more power than others;
Inequality and oppression are inherent in capitalist
relations of production and consumption;
Ideological domination is strongest when oppressed
groups see their situation as inevitable, natural or
necessary;
Forms of oppression mediate each other and must be
considered together (e.g. race, gender, class).

FIVE STAGES IN CRITICAL ETHNOGRAPHY


Stage 1
Compiling the primary record through the
collection of monological data
Stage 2
Preliminary reconstructive analysis
Stage 3
Dialogical data collection
Stage 4
Discovering system relations
Stage 5
Using system relations to explain findings

PLANNING A QUALITATIVE STUDY


1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Locate a field of study.


Decide research questions (where appropriate)
Address ethical issues.
Decide from whom to obtain data (sampling).
Find a role and manage entry into the context.
Find informants:

reliability;
Importance in giving accounts;
Knowledge/knowledgeability;
Status;
Contacts gatekeepers;
Representativeness;
Centrality;
Relationships to others.

PLANNING A QUALITATIVE STUDY


7. Develop and maintain relationships in the field:
trust; confidence; rapport; discretion; sensitivity;
empathy;
8. Collect data in situ and in several contexts
(field notes and triangulation);
9. Collect other data (where relevant);
10. Analyze data;
11. Leave the field; decide when, how, how to
close relationships.
12. Write the final report.

REFLEXIVITY
Researchers are part of the social world that
they are researching
This social world is an already interpreted
world by the actors
Researchers bring their own biographies to
the research situation
Researchers should acknowledge and
disclose their own selves in the research,
seeking to understand their part in, or
influence on, the research.

OBSERVER ROLES
OUTSIDER

Detached
Observer

INSIDER

Observer
as
participant

Participant
as
observer

Complete
participant

CONCERNS IN CONDUCTING
ETHNOGRAPHIES
How do you negotiate your way into a situation; how to
minimize threat.
Timing the point of entry.
Finding a role for yourself.
To be a participant observer or non-participant observer?
How to maintain naturalism and to avoid people playing
to what they perceive are your expectations of them.
How to retain your distance from those involved.
How to gain access to certain difficult groups.
Who to regard as key/important informants.
How to record multiple perspectives and multiple realities.

CONCERNS IN CONDUCTING
ETHNOGRAPHIES
How to address emic and etic approaches.
Who owns the data; how much control do
respondents/participants have over the data; when does
ownership pass from the respondents/participants to the
researcher?
How to write up the report.
What if the researcher sees what the respondents/
participants do not see?
Reactivity of participants (Hawthorne effect).
Halo effect.
Focusing on the known/familiar only.
Consider generalizability.

STEPS IN QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS


Step 1: Establish units of analysis of the data, indicating how
these units are similar to and different from each other
Step 2: Create a domain analysis
Step 3: Establish relationships and
linkages between the domains
Step 4: Make speculative inferences
Step 5: Summarize
Step 6: Seek negative and discrepant cases
Step 7: Generate theory

SOME DIFFICULTIES IN
QUALITATIVE RESEARCH

Definition of the situation


Reactivity
Halo effect
Implicit conservatism
Focusing on the familiar
Open-endedness and diversity
Neglect of wider social contexts and
constraints
Generalizability
Writing up multiple realities
Ownership of the data