The nature of research - observation and writing


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Lecture exploring qualitative research focusing on observation and respresentation through written reports.

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The nature of research - observation and writing

  1. 1. The nature of research Observation and Writing
  2. 2. Physical Description (1) <ul><ul><li>Select a section of this room which is immediately across from where you are sitting. Describe this section of the room in detail. I’ll ask you to stop after 15 minutes. </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. Physical Description (1) <ul><li>Discussion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How did you approach this exercise? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How is this exercise like the previous? Unlike? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What was the most difficult part of the exercise? </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. The research tree: summarising approaches Gay, L.R. & Airasian, P. (2003).
  5. 5. Qualitative Research <ul><li>Qualitative research is conducted through an intense and/or prolonged contact with a ‘field’ or life situation. These situations are typically ‘banal’ or normal ones, reflective of the everyday life of individuals, groups, societies, and organisations. </li></ul><ul><li>The researcher’s role is to gain a ‘holistic’ (systemic, encompassing, integrated) overview of the context under study: its logic, its arrangements, its explicit and implicit rules. </li></ul><ul><li>The researcher attempts to capture data on the perceptions of local actors ‘from the inside’, through a process of deep attentiveness, of empathetic understanding, and of suspending or ‘bracketing’ preconceptions about the topics under discussion. </li></ul><ul><li>Reading through these materials, the researcher may isolate certain themes and expressions that can be reviewed with informants, but that should be maintained in their original forms throughout the study. </li></ul><ul><li>(Miles and Huberman 1994:6) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Research Design: Linear <ul><li>1. Define a problem </li></ul><ul><li>2. Formulate a hypothesis </li></ul><ul><li>3. Make operational decisions </li></ul><ul><li>4. Design a research instrument </li></ul><ul><li>5. Gather the data </li></ul><ul><li>6. Analyse the data </li></ul><ul><li>7. Draw conclusions 8. Report the results </li></ul>
  7. 7. Research Design: cyclical Writing an ethnography Selecting an ethnographic project Making an ethnographic record Asking ethnographic questions Collecting ethnographic data Analysing ethnographic data
  8. 8. Developing a problem <ul><li>Qualitative studies can have a range of aims/purpose </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Descriptive – describing a social situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exploratory – opening up research questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Focused – addressing a specific research question </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluative – assessing a defined situation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Theory building – developing a theory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Theory testing – verifying a theory </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The aim often determines how well developed the problem is. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Symbolic interactionism <ul><li>Sociological school which has been influential in ethnographic studies. Its principle interests are: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Meaning; human beings act towards things on the basis of the meanings they have for them. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Process; these meanings expressed through symbols are handled through an interpretive process. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Interaction/Context: meanings are the product of social interaction in society. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Notice here the line from symbolic interactionism towards Hall’s discussion of representation. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Field research <ul><li>Definition: doing research in a social situation in which the researcher is present. </li></ul><ul><li>Two principle methods of field research; </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Participant observation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>interviewing </li></ul></ul><ul><li>In both, the researcher is the main instrument for doing the research. </li></ul><ul><li>Problems of access and selection </li></ul>
  11. 11. Access <ul><li>Definition: gaining permission to carry out the field research in a particular social/institutional setting </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Initial contacts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Gatekeepers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ethical consideration </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Selection strategies: sampling (1) Which aspect of reality do you want to investigate? people Sites Time periods Processes events Social situation
  13. 13. Selection strategies: sampling (2) <ul><li>QR selection is often based on non-probabilistic sampling </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Judgement sampling – fitting in with your assumptions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Opportunistic – what is convenient/possible </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Snowball sampling – gaining information from one source to another </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Theoretical sampling – selecting to further develop a theory </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Selection strategies: example <ul><li>A participant observation study exploring how people cross the road. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Locations: which roads to choose; pedestrian crossings </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Events: crossing the road; waiting; accidents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time periods; different times during the day </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People; differentiated by age, gender, alone/in groups </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Participant observation <ul><li>The researcher ‘participates’ in the situation </li></ul><ul><li>The researcher primarily collects material through observation </li></ul><ul><li>Look at these field roles: </li></ul>Complete participant Participant as observer Observer as participant Complete observer Comparative detachment Comparative involvement Fieldwork
  16. 16. Collecting data: making observations Descriptive observation Focused observation Selective observation
  17. 17. Descriptive observation <ul><li>Aims to describe the social situation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The setting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>People </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>events </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Understanding context is fundamental </li></ul><ul><li>Descriptive observation often result in narratives – stories </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Events/episodes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Roles/characters </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Time sequences </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Focussed/Selective observation <ul><li>Focussed </li></ul><ul><li>Limiting the scope – focussing </li></ul><ul><li>Made after analysing descriptive data </li></ul><ul><li>They construct particular elements of the study </li></ul><ul><li>Selective </li></ul><ul><li>Further focus </li></ul><ul><li>Looking for contrasts, differences between different elements </li></ul>
  19. 19. Description of a familiar person or stranger <ul><li>Task: To describe a person sitting across from you, either one you know or a stranger. </li></ul><ul><li>Time: 15 mins </li></ul><ul><li>Select a person to describe physically </li></ul><ul><li>Arrange your 15 minutes to your best advantage </li></ul><ul><li>Use descriptive terms and work for accuracy </li></ul>
  20. 20. Description of a familiar person or stranger: Feedback <ul><li>What can you identify as major differences in observation of a still life, a setting and a person? </li></ul><ul><li>How did you approach this exercise? </li></ul><ul><li>What was difficult for you in the exercise and what do you want to do about it? </li></ul>
  21. 21. Physical Description (2) <ul><li>Select an area on campus to observe. Set aside 30 minutes of quiet time to describe it. Set reasonable goals for the description. For example, select one part of the library or one section of the student union. </li></ul><ul><li>Again, write down your notes in fieldwork form and then write them up on the wiki. (nb do this with all the observation exercises we complete) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Physical Description (2) Feedback <ul><li>How did you approach this description of a setting? </li></ul><ul><li>How did this differ from the previous description you completed? </li></ul><ul><li>What was the most difficult part of this exercise for you? </li></ul>