Chapter 12: Field Research: A Qualitative Research Technique
- Ethnography or participant observation is a method of data collection; the former is most commonly used in anthropology, while the latter is used commonly in sociology.
- Field research typically involves a combination of participant observation, interviewing, and document or artifact analysis. It is a method used in qualitative research.
- The level to which a researcher undertakes participant observation lies on a continuum from complete observer to complete participant; however, most examples lie near the middle of the continuum.
- Strengths of field research include the fact that it yields very detailed data; it can uncover social facts that are not immediately obvious.
- Weaknesses of the field research include: researchers may have to sacrifice breadth for depth; the research may be emotionally taxing; and documenting observations can be challenging.
- The ascribed aspects of our infield locations are those that are involuntary, such as our age or race or mobility. The achieved aspects of our infield locations, on the other hand, are those that we have some choice about.
- Overt researchers enter the field with the research participants’ awareness of the fact that they are the subjects of social scientific research. Covert researchers, on the other hand, enter the field as though they are full participants, opting not to reveal that they are also researchers or that the group they have joined is being studied.
- Descriptive field notes are notes that simply describe a field researcher’s observation as straightforwardly as possible. These notes typically do not contain explanations of, or comments about, those observations.
- In field research observation is deliberate, not haphazard.
- Handwritten notes must be typed up immediately upon leaving the field so that researchers can fill the blanks in their brief notes taken while in the field.
- Analytic field notes are notes that include the researcher’s impressions about his observation.
- Grounded theory involves generating theory from the ground up. In analyzing their data, many field researchers conduct grounded theory.