We do field research whenever we
  observe and participate in social
  behavior and seek to understand
  social action and social situations

  Source: Earl Babbie, The Practice of
  Social Research.
 Leads to a deeper and fuller
  understanding of the phenomenon,
  when we study it in its social context.
 Helps researchers recognize nuances of
  “attitudes and behaviors” the collectivity
  of social interaction as opposed to
  studying detached variables.
 Helps study processes over time, when
  taken together with the structure they
  are linked to.
Elements of social life appropriate to Field Research (John
1. Social Practices: Talking
2. Episodes: Events like crime, illness, divorce.
3. Encounters: Meeting and interaction among people.
4. Roles and social types associated with those roles.
5. Small groups
6. Formal Organizations
7. Settlements and ‘habitats’- small scale ‘societies’
8. Social worlds of people
9. Subcultures and lifestyles
Field Research offers the distinct advantage of
   studying social life in its ‘natural habitat.’
   And capturing subtleties that might
   otherwise be lost in laboratory type
Roles of the Observer
 Complete observer to complete
  participant continuum.
   Complete observer- researcher as Martian-
    detached/separateness, objectivity is a benefit but
    might miss insider understanding of phenomenon.
   Genuine participant
   Pretending to be a genuine participant
   Researcher as participant
     Deception is unethical but is often done (with
       debriefing at the end) for the sake of validity and
       reliability, to minimize “reactivity”- i.e. the
       subjects of social research might react to the fact
       of being studied, thus altering their
       behavior…(Hawthorne Effect).
 Idiographic
(from Idio meaning unique e.g. idiosyncrasy)
Seeks to explain a social event by an
   exhaustive set of unique causes- seeks
   total explanation, all causes
 Nomothetic
  Seeks to explain a social event by
  narrowing down causes to a few.
Reliability & Validity
Measurements should be
1. Reliable- consistency in
   measurement- objective
2. Valid- you are measuring what you
   are supposed to measure.
Researchers Relations to the
 Reflexivity- understanding based on
  anticipation of effects before acting. Taking
  on the “role” of the observed.
   Problems
      Research setting affects subjects responses
      Being moved by the personal lives of the people you
      Power and status separation between researcher and
       subject (implicit assumptions about researcher
       superiority need to be dropped)
Qualitative Field Research
 1. Naturalism:
   Linked to the Chicago School, earliest
    types of field research based on the
    positivist assumption that reality is “out
    there” and can be observed objectively
        E.g. William Foote Whyte’s, Street Corner
         Society (1943).
        Snow and Anderson (1987)
     Ethnography: A study that focuses on
      detailed and accurate description rather
      than explanation, preferably from an
      insiders point of view.
 Ethnographic Fallacy (Mitchell Dunier, 1999)
   Overgeneralization and oversimplification of the patterns
     observed. Going beyond descriptive exploration.

   Types of Ethnography
    Virtual Ethnography: using ethnographic techniques for
      inquiry into cyberspace.
    Auto-Ethnography: an ethnography technique that uses the
      researcher’s subjective experience to interpret data rather
      than interpreting it from the p.o.v of the researched (elite
      bias, given the social position of the researcher but may
      involve greater authenticity).
 2. Ethnomethodology (Harold Garfinkel)
   Ethnomethodologists are skeptical about the
     way people report their experience of reality.
     People describe their world “as they make sense
     of it.”
   Breaching Experiments: Experiments designed
     to breach taken for granted norms of mundane
     everyday interaction to note reactions of people.
     Involves the researcher bracketing their
 Ethnomethodologists believe that naturalists lose the
  ability to understand the world if they use tools that are
  part of the world’s ‘logic.’ Discovering the inner logic of
  the world you study is more important.
   Ethnographers want to discover the world of the
     subjects from their point of view- how do the subjects
     see their world
   Ethnomethodologists want to uncover the
     methodology the people use in order to make sense
     of their world.
 In order to do this ethnomethodologists
  deliberately “breach” those rules in what they
  term breaching experiments.
3. Grounded Theory Method
 Barney Glasser and Anselm Strauss
   Inductive Theory Building; building
    theory from data, from an analysis of
    patterns, themes and common
    categories that are themselves
    discovered in observational data.
   Think comparatively, multiple
    viewpoints, skepticism, follow procedures
    involving comparison, sampling and
    asking questions, and systematic coding.
Four Stages of the GTM
 1. Comparing incidents applicable to each
  category : specifying concepts; [concept of
  social loss, reaction of nurses to the dying
 2. Integrating categories and their
  properties: what is the relationship
  between concepts; additional variables
 3. Delimiting the theory: as relationships
  between concepts emerge, check which one
  is relevant and which one is not; [what
  cannot be considered as part of the
 4. Writing the Theory
 Discovering Patterns:
John & Lyn Lofland, six different ways for looking for patterns:

1. Frequency: How often does it happen
2. Magnitude: What is the level of it. How large
3. Structures: What are the different types of it
4. Processes: Is there any order among it
5. Causes: is the occurrence different among
6. Consequences: How does it affect other things
   after it has occurred
Differences between Quantitative and Qualitative
research approaches
Characteristic  Quantitative     Qualitative
                research         research

Logic of theory    Deductive                     Inductive
Direction of theory Begins from                  Begins from
construction        theory                       “reality’’
Verification       Takes place after             Data generation,
                   theory construction           analysis & theory
                   is completed                  verification take place

Concepts           Defined before                “Flexible” concepts -
                   research                      begins with orienting,
                                                 sensitizing concepts
Generalizations    Inductive generalizations     Analytic, exemplar
                   (use of inferential           generalizations - i.e.
                   statistics) or hypothetico-   sample units can act as
                   deductive (use of             typical representatives of
                   hypothesis testing)           a class or group of
The epistemological
inadequacy of induction.

  Robert Merton (1910-2003)- induction
   presents a weak form of evidence
   compared to deduction because facts that
   fit into an explanation (positive evidence)
   are not as strong as facts that fail to
   negate an explanation (deduction) based
   on falsification (Karl Popper 1902-1994)
4. Case Study and Extended
Case Study Method.
 A case study focuses attention on a single instance
  of a social phenomenon- cases need not be a place
  or a group of people, it can also be a period of
   Case researchers seek an in depth idiographic
     understanding of the particular case under
   Extended case study: discovering flaws in and
     then improving existing theories, that are clearly
     stated before the investigation in order to fill the
     “gaps and silences” in theory
    Cases cannot be generalized to the “whole”- have
     limited use other than informing quantitative
     research based on probability samples.
5. Institutional Ethnography
 Originally developed by Dorothy Smith (1978) to
  better understand women’s experiences by
  discovering power relations that shape those
  experiences: through discovering institutional
  practices that shape these realities.
   Discovering institutional power relations that
     structure everyday experiences: linking the
     micro-level world of experiences with the macro-
     level world of institutions: the biography to the
     structure, i.e. using your sociological
6. Participatory Action Research
 The researcher’s function is to serve
  as a change brining resource to those
  being studied which are typically
  disadvantaged groups.
   The researcher works not only as a
    means of knowledge but as
    consciousness cultivator and helper in
    mobilization for social change
   Began with “third world” economic
    development research
Qualitative Interviewing
 An interaction between the interviewer and the
  respondent in which the interviewer has a general
  plan of inquiry.
   In general, a qualitative interview is a
     conversation in which the interviewer
     establishes a general direction for the
     conversation and pursues specific topics raised
     by the respondent’s answers.
   Listen more than talk. Show interest in the other
     person but don’t let the conversation veer off
 Seven Stages to complete the
  interview process (Steinar Kvale
1.   Thematizing- clarify the purpose of the interview.
2.   Designing based on purpose of interview
3.   Interviewing
4.   Transcribing
5.   Analyzing in terms of the themes in 1.
6.   Verifying for reliability and validity
7.   Reporting
Focus Groups
 Group interviewing
   In a focus group 5 to 15 people are
    brought together (typically) in a private
    environment to engage in a guided
    discussion of some topic.
   A good way to generate substantive
    questions for survey research (pre-
    research technique).
Recording Observations
 Some can be anticipated, others
  emerge during the course of the field
 Take as much detailed notes as you
  can, even though most will be
  ‘wasted’ in the end.
 Observing and recording are skills
  that improve with practice.
Strengths and Weakness of
Field Research
 High on validity and forming
  descriptive concepts
 Low on reliability, generalization
  success and uncovering causation.
Qualitative Interviewing
 Field Research involves going where
  the “action” is and observing,
  listening and recording.
   Qualitative interviewing unlike surveys
    involve detailed interaction of researcher
    with interviewee, pay attention to non
    verbal aspects of the response as well.
    Mix observation/field research with the
    interview not losing focus of the entire
    surrounding ‘situation’: be reflexive,
    think about the unsaid.
Semiotics- part of qualitative
 The science of signs
 Has to do with symbols and meanings
 Commonly associated with content analysis
 Semiotics is based on language but other
  multiple sign systems e.g. mathematics,
  Morse code etc exist.
 Meaning is not intrinsic to the sign but
  resides in the mind, that emerges as a
  consequence of the ‘social situation’- link
  between expression and content. Therefore
  semiotics is a social science- agreed
  meaning among a group about symbols and
  signs and their socially desirable
 In reading signs and their meanings
  note the latent, i.e. hidden meanings,
  subliminal messages
Conversation Analysis (CA)
 Conversation is a socially structured activity-
 Part of ethnomethodology, that tries to
  uncover the implicit assumptions and
  structures in social life.
 Simple example of structure: what do you do
  when you talk? Take turns. Understand
  contextually, analyze the pauses etc.
 When an outsider enters a group he or she
  breaches rules of conversation- note the
  reactions during qualitative interviews they
  are important part of the research
 Coding
   The process of converting raw data into
    standarized form for the purpose of analyzing
    your research problem.
   It involves the logic of conceptualization that we
    studied earlier.
   You have a choice in coding between generality
    or depth (specificity) or both.
   You can code the manifest content (the surface,
    explicit content) and the latent or deeper
    meaning that emerges from the patterns (latent
 The “concept” is the organizing principle for qualitative
 Manual coding- the file put code name on the tab and
  the data that goes with it in the file or its location in
  some other file.
 Types of coding- from broad to specific
   Open coding- break up data into discrete numbered
     parts and examine similarities and differences.
   Axial Coding- identify Core concepts that are central
     to your study AFTER open coding, regrouping data
     and looking for analytical concepts beyond open
   Selective Coding- identifying THE central code in the
     study that organizes or orders all the other concepts.
Very Important
 Negative case testing –Bruce Berg (a
  technique for qualitative hypothesis
  testing), so that the methodology can
  proceed beyond mere positive pattern
  formation and the pre-experimental
  to an experimental/falsification based
   Find the cases that contradict the
    general pattern and studying them in
 Memoing
  Writing memos and notes to yourself and
   others during the qualitative project and
   during coding
    Code notes: code labels and their meanings
    Theoretical notes: that go with various
    Operational notes: methodological issues
 Concept mapping
   Qualitative diagrams like some of the
    ones handed out during the semester-
    relationship between concepts presented
     Visual portrayals help you summarize, think
      and invent new relationships, can help data
      collection in the future and organize your

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