Ch10 Field Research

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Maxfield, Michael G. & Babbie, Earl R. (2011). Research Methods for Criminal Justice and Criminology, 6th Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing

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Ch10 Field Research

  1. 1. 1Field Research
  2. 2. OUTLINE Introduction Topics Appropriate to Field Research The Various Roles of the Observer Asking Questions Gaining Access to Subjects Recording Observations Linking Field Observation and Other Data Illustrations of Field Research Strengths and Weaknesses of Field Research
  3. 3. 3•Field research encompasses two differentmethods of obtaining data: •Direct observation •Asking questions•May yield qualitative and quantitative data•Often no precisely defined hypotheses to betested•Used to make sense out of an ongoingprocess
  4. 4. 4•Gives comprehensive perspective – enhancesvalidity •Go directly to phenomenon, observe it as completely as possible•Especially appropriate for topics bestunderstood in their natural setting •Street level drug dealers to distinguish customers•Ethnography: Focuses on detailed andaccurate description rather than explanation
  5. 5. 5•Complete participant: Participates fully; trueidentity and purpose are not known tosubjects•Participant-as-observer: Make known yourposition as researcher and participate with thegroup•Observer-as-participant: Make known yourposition as a researcher; do not actuallyparticipate•Complete observer: Observes withoutbecoming a participant
  6. 6. 6•Qualitative Interview: Is based on a set of topicsto be discussed in depth rather than based on theuse of standardized questions•Field research is often a matter of going wherethe action is and simply watching and listening•Also a matter of asking questions & recordinganswers•Field research interviews are must lessstructured than survey interviews•Ideally set up and conducted just like a normal,casual conversation
  7. 7. 7•Begins with initial contact: Sponsor, Letter,Phone Call, Meeting•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.
  8. 8. 8•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?
  9. 9. 9•Note taking, tape recording when interviewingand when making observations (dictation)•Videotaping or photographs can make records of“before” and “after” some physical design change•Field notes: Observations are recorded aswritten notes, often in a field journal; first takesketchy notes and then rewrite your notes indetail•Structured observations: Observers markclosed-ended forms, which produce numericmeasures
  10. 10. 10•Useful to combine field research with surveysor 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
  11. 11. 11•Counted only when offense is seen; takes placeonly in certain locations; crime of stealth and notconfrontation •Prevalence defined as ratio of shoplifters: shoppers •Subjects selected by systematic sampling, e.g., every 20th shopper was followed by a field observer •Other research staff were employed as shoplifters to measure reliability of observers’ detections •Could adjust prevalence rate with reliability figures
  12. 12. 12•Rate of use: # of people wearing: # of carsobserved•Stationary observers at roadsides rather thanmobile•Placed at controlled intersections•Sampled cars on three dimensions: Time of day,roadway type, observation site; stratified sites bydensity of auto ownership (correlated withpopulation)•Emphasized marking “U” when uncertain
  13. 13. 13•Alcohol has a disinhibiting effect which can lead toaggression and subsequent violence•Researcher set out to learn how situationalfactors promote or inhibit violence in Australianbars/nightclubs•Observers in pairs stayed 2-6 hours multipletimes at 23 sites, “complete participant” –narratives written later•Correlates: Violence in bars frequented byworking-class males; discomfort & boredom,drinking patterns, management issues (cover, foodavailability, bouncers)
  14. 14. 14•Provides great depth of understanding•Flexibility (no need to prepare much in advance)•More appropriate to measure behavior thansurveys•High validity; quant. measures – Incompletepicture•Low reliability– Often very personal•Generalizability – Personal nature may producefindings that may not be replicated by another•Precise probability samples can’t normally bedrawn

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