Chapter 8:
1
Field Research
Introduction
•Field research encompasses two different methods of
obtaining data:
•Direct observation
•Asking questions
•M...
Topics Appropriate to Field
Research
•Gives comprehensive perspective – enhances validity
•Go directly to phenomenon, obse...
Various Roles of the Observer
(Gold, 1969)
•Complete participant – participates fully; true identity and
purpose are not k...
Asking Questions
•Field research is often a matter of going where the action is
and simply watching and listening
•Also a ...
Gaining Access to Subjects
•Access to formal organizations
•Find a sponsor, write a letter to executive director,
arrange ...
Sampling in Field Research
•Controlled probability sampling used rarely; purposive
sampling is common
•Bear in mind two st...
Recording Observations
•Note-taking, tape recording when interviewing and when
making observations (dictation device)
•Vid...
Linking Field Observations and
Other Data
•Useful to combine field research with surveys or data from
official records
•Ba...
Illustrations of Field Research:
Speeding
•Used highly-structured techniques to measure speeding
•Digital photographs take...
Illustrations of Field Research:
Police in New Jersey
•Interested in the mechanics of making traffic stops
•What informs w...
Illustrations of Field Research:
Bars and Violence
•Alcohol has disinhibiting effect which can lead to aggression
and subs...
Strengths and Weaknesses of
Field Research
•Provides great depth of understanding
•Flexibility (no need to prepare much in...
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Ch08 maxfield pp ts

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Ch08 maxfield pp ts

  1. 1. Chapter 8: 1 Field Research
  2. 2. Introduction •Field research encompasses two different methods of obtaining data: •Direct observation •Asking questions •May yield qualitative and quantitative data •Often no precisely defined hypotheses to be tested •Used to make sense out of an ongoing process 2
  3. 3. Topics Appropriate to Field Research •Gives comprehensive perspective – enhances validity •Go directly to phenomenon, observe it as completely as possible •Especially appropriate for topics best understood in their natural setting •Street level drug dealers to distinguish customers 3
  4. 4. Various Roles of the Observer (Gold, 1969) •Complete participant – participates fully; true identity and purpose are not known to subjects •Participant-as-observer – make known your position as researcher and participate with the group •Observer-as-participant – make known your position as a researcher; do not actually participate •Complete observer – observes without becoming a participant 4
  5. 5. Asking Questions •Field research is often a matter of going where the action is and simply watching and listening •Also a matter of asking questions & recording answers •Field research interviews are must less structured than survey interviews •Ideally set up and conducted just like a normal, casual conversation 5
  6. 6. Gaining Access to Subjects •Access to formal organizations •Find a sponsor, write a letter to executive director, arrange a phone call, arrange a meeting •Access to subcultures •Find an informant (usually person who works with criminals), use that person as your “in” •Snowball sampling is useful as informant identifies others, who identify others, etc. 6
  7. 7. Sampling in Field Research •Controlled probability sampling used rarely; purposive sampling is common •Bear in mind two stages of sampling: •To what extent are the situations available for observation representative of the general phenomena you wish to describe and explain? •Are your actual observations within those total situations representative of all observations? 7
  8. 8. Recording Observations •Note-taking, tape recording when interviewing and when making observations (dictation device) •Videotaping or photographs can make records of “before” and “after” some physical design change •Field notes – observations are recorded as written notes, often in a field journal; first take sketchy notes and then rewrite your notes in detail •Structured observations – observers mark closed-ended forms, which produce numeric measures 8
  9. 9. Linking Field Observations and Other Data •Useful to combine field research with surveys or data from official records •Baltimore study of the effects of neighborhood physical characteristics on residents’ perceptions of crime problems (Taylor, Shumaker, & Gottfredson, 1985) •Perceptions – surveys; Physical problems – observations, actual population and crime information - census data & crime reports from police records 9
  10. 10. Illustrations of Field Research: Speeding •Used highly-structured techniques to measure speeding •Digital photographs taken periodically •Radar •Human observers to code race of drivers 10
  11. 11. Illustrations of Field Research: Police in New Jersey •Interested in the mechanics of making traffic stops •What informs who is stopped? •Used unstructured interviews during ridealongs •Extensive notes were taken •Troopers were allowed to examine notes 11
  12. 12. Illustrations of Field Research: Bars and Violence •Alcohol has disinhibiting effect which can lead to aggression and subsequent violence •Researcher set out to learn how situational factors promote or inhibit violence in Australian bars/nightclubs •Observers in pairs stayed 2-6 hours multiple times at 23 sites, “complete participant” – narratives written later •Correlates: violence in bars frequented by working-class males; discomfort & boredom, drinking patterns, management issues (cover, food availability, bouncers) 12
  13. 13. Strengths and Weaknesses of Field Research •Provides great depth of understanding •Flexibility (no need to prepare much in advance) •More appropriate to measure behavior than surveys •High validity; quant. measures – incomplete picture •Low reliability – often very personal •Generalizability – personal nature may produce findings that may not be replicated by another •Precise probability samples can’t normally be drawn 13

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