If you order your custom term paper from our custom writing service you will receive a perfectly written assignment on field research. What we need from you is to provide us with your detailed paper instructions for our experienced writers to follow all of your specific writing requirements. Specify your order details, state the exact number of pages required and our custom writing professionals will deliver the best quality field research paper right on time.

Out staff of freelance writers includes over 120 experts proficient in field research, therefore you can rest assured that your assignment will be handled by only top rated specialists. Order your field research paper at affordable prices with Live Paper Help!



Principles and Practice of Field Research 1


From fields to cities


Introduction


In this lecture I want to set the scene for this first half of the course. I want begin today to to explore what field research might be and as the term progresses I will look at what different methods and techniques might involve.


Cheap Custom Essays on field research

essay writing service



Today I’m more concerned with overall approach whereas later in the term I’ll look at problems of gaining access, issues around recording data, and what to do with the data when you get back from ‘the field’.


Next term, firstly Dave Francis and later Phil Hodgkiss will explore some of the more philosophical problems surrounding this process. They will highlight not simply problems with research methods but begin to address how reflecting on studying social life raises a set of questions about the very nature of social life and our place in it as social beings.


When I was thinking about what to say I picked up a book on the history of social research methods and I was surprised by what the author had to say about the state of qualitative methods.


Firstly he said that qualitative methods are unscientific in the sense that the impressions of the participant observer or the life history document are unavailable for public scrutiny.


The second point he made was that the techniques of qualitative research had made no progress since they were established in the 10s and 10s. Combined with their lack of scientific veracity this meant that they were useful only “as a source of hypotheses to be tested more rigourously in other ways” and secondly to put “flesh on the analytical bones” of social scientific research (Easthope 174 105).


These comments surprised me until I realised that the book was published years ago. I hope that by the end of this course you will be persuaded that some of the techniques of 70 or more years ago are still useful to study social and political processes, that they are not merely a matter of intuition or impression, that there have been developments in the qualitative tradition and that it is just as ‘scientific’ as more quantitative methods.


Field research


But lets begin by going back seventy years. Why Principles and Practice of Field Research? Where is this field? It is a cultural metaphor that expresses the ‘otherness’ of the place where field research goes on. The field is the outdoors of culture, the open space where all sorts of things happen that are unfamiliar.


The field is not a desert or a wild space. It is somewhere that is cultivated and has some sort of order that is not simply natural. It has boundaries but there are gates and styles in those boundaries. The field is somewhere that is cultivated by the efforts of people acting intentionally, but they are not the only influence on what goes on there.


There is also a sense of history in the idea of the field; the field itself will reflect what happened to it in the past, what was grown there, what was left to rot, what was put on it. What is more, the social practices will be repeated perhaps each year; people in the field will have a sense of its history much like we can remember the christmases of our childhood.


In field research sociologists, political scientists and anthropologists go out and study social life while it is still carrying on. They go into a cultural setting or situation to find out what happens there. They don’t rely on taking some of that social life into a laboratory to experiment on and they don’t send ‘research instruments’ in the form of questionnaires or interview schedules into the field to do the study. They go into the field themselves.


Beginnings


The beginning of serious discussion of methods that might be appropriate to field research seem to emerge in the 10s more or less simultaneously amongst sociologists at the University of Chicago and British anthropologists notably Bronislaw Malinowski and A. R. Radcliffe Brown.


Anthropology


Anthropology, the study of mankind, had traditionally used the stories of travellers and merchants, written as diaries and travalogues, to find out about the range of different types of peoples. The academic study of anthropology was predominantly interested in the origins of social forms and in the evolutionary chain that might be charted through different societies. James Frazer’s famous Golden Bough published around a hundred years ago was a compilation of information about religious beliefs and practices gathered from other sources but not from his own field research.


Gathering original data about exotic societies probably began with Frans Boaz’s field research to learn about Eskimo society in the 1880s. But it is not until the 10s with the field work of Radcliffe-Brown in the Andaman Islands and Malinowski in the Trobriands that a systematic approach to field work was developed.


In anthropology the collection of data gathering techniques was oriented to producing an ‘ethnography’, that is a written description of the people being studied. This involved the researcher going into the ‘other culture’ and living within it for some time. This immersion in the other was expected to last for at least a year and was regarded as part of the training of the anthropologist.


The anthropological ethnography involves describing the institutional and interactional structure of the culture under study. It would include all aspects of the culture beliefs and values, religious practices, sexual behaviour, kinship patterns, the distribution of wealth and power and the economic system for creating and distributing and exchanging goods. It would also include the political structure, decision making procedures, the operation of laws, prohibitions and sanctions.


As well as these largely institutional issues, ethnographers would need to grapple with the language, the way of relating to the natural world and the material culture of the different people.


Argonauts of the Western Pacific


Perhaps the first attempt to describe what is involved in field research is Malinowski’s account of methodology at the beginning of the first of his series of famous writings on the Trobriand Islanders, Argonauts of the Western Pacific.


Before trying to distill some principles of method from Malinowski’s work I want to give you a brief idea of what his ethnography was about.


The Trobriand islands are a small group within a larger group of more than thirty islands that vary in size, to the east of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. These islands are made up of a number of different tribes of peoples who travel by canoe linking their cultures through a formalised system of exchanging shells that is known as the Kula. Here is how Malinowski describes the system for exchange around the circle of islands within the Kula ring


Along this route, articles of two kinds, and these two kinds only, are constantly travelling in opposite directions. In the directions of the hands of a clock, moves constantly one of these kinds - long necklaces of red shell, called soulava. In the opposite direction moves the other kind - bracelets of white shell called mwali. (Malinowski 1 81)


This is a kind of ritual economy which is very different from anything in our own culture - or even in Malinowski’s European (Polish born, English educated) experience.


But what is perhaps most important about the Kula system is that it has rammifications on all other aspects of the culture which we can recognise as not so strange. So for example, side by side with the ritual trade in shells that no one really owns, buys or sells, an ordinary barter of utilities goes on.


The sea-going canoes necessary for the Kula exchange are built within the tribal communities as part of the process of ritual. However, they are actually owned by the headman of a village or the chief of a tribe. Individual men within the tribe might be involved in the ritual of passing on shells, but they cannot do so without travelling in the headman’s canoe.


Now the chief does not build the canoe himself; he leads its construction, even though it is a collaborative affair. He is the spokesman on all matters to do with sailing the canoe, he chooses who will sail in the canoe and he receives the greatest proportion of Kula riches. The chief employs experts to advise on the building of the canoe and the magic necessary for its successful completion. He also employs a group of workers, usually related to the owner or the expert, who work on the canoe through the project.


What emerges in Malinowski’s ethnography - and I have only hinted at some of the issues it explores - is an account of a complex but complete society. It includes features which are wholly strange such as the use of magic to manage the building of canoes and the ritual exchange of shells which fit together with much more familiar ideas of distinctions of ownership, power, authority, gender division, work and so on.


Ethnographic method


There are a number of things that spring out from Malinowski’s account of the Trobrianders culture.


Firstly he is there, living amongst them. His pictures show his tent, his descriptions include for example first hand accounts of sailing in the canoes.


Secondly he has had to learn the language; his ethnography includes Trobriand words which he explains, attempting not to reduce them through a simple translation to English words with the connotations and meanings that would accrue.


Thirdly he writes in a largely descriptive way; he is not telling a story in which specific things happen in a sequence. He doesn’t describe the building of a particular canoe but writes about the building of canoes in general, he doesn’t write about the details of a particular expedition to exchange shells - which Trobrainders themselves would regard as worth reporting - he writes about what would normally happen on any such expedition.


This style of writing is ‘factual’ as opposed to fictional, it is ‘empirical’ as opposed to ‘theoretical’, it is ‘general’ as opposed to ‘particular’, it is ‘timeless’ not the reporting of ‘news’. Importantly, the style of writing - which is incidentally enormously enjoyable and interesting - does not forground opinion or interpretation.


As you can gather, Malinowski was trying to write an ‘objective’ account of the Trobriand culture. He writes as if anyone who had been there and seen what he has seen would write the same thing. He has even thought about how he should go about this.


One of the reasons why Malinowski remains so important is his account of his own methods; he spends the first chapter of Argonauts setting out how he did what he did. He firstly sets out a methodological principle which he uses to distinguish his approach from less scientific, earlier styles of anthropology


I consider that only such ethnographic sources are of unquestionable scientific value, in which we can clearly draw the line between, on the one hand, the results of direct observation and of native statements and interpretations, and on the other, the inferences of the author, based on his common sense and psychological insight. (Malinowski 1 )


He is distinguishing here between data which is arrived from direct observation and the statements of native people from the interpretive work of the onlooker. His claim to scientificity is to put the data first, rather than treating an interpretation or gloss as being an adequate account or description.


He also distinguishes his approach from that of the white missionaries, administrators or traders who speak to the natives in pidgin English, lack respect or interest in the local culture and who relate primarily through barter. Such approaches maintain cultural distance between the intruding white man and the native.


Malinowski’s approach is founded on cutting himself off from other white men and immersing himself in native culture, camping right in their villages.


Rather than treating the native culture as strange he made it familiar and made himself less obtrusive to that culture by always being around. The result was that he was able to observe ordinary life - work, mealtimes, relaxation and play - and was there when big events like important quarrels or magical rites took place.


Malinowski also learned to some extent how to be a native. He had to learn what was ‘appropriate’ behaviour in Trobriand culture and show that he respected their culture by being ‘good mannered’ if he was to be accepted.


But Malinowski does not only argue that the ethnographer should open him or herself up to the local culture, he suggests that the researcher should be prepared theoretically by reading other anthropological works. This makes the ethnographer aware of the issues and encourages him or her to seek out information as well as helping to organise and order the gathering of data.


He offers three guidlines to undertaking scientific fieldwork


1. Study the anatomy of the culture


In choosing what shall count as data, he says that rigour and comprehensiveness should be the guiding principles, not what is sensational, quaint or amusing. All aspects of social life - technology, social organisation, religion etc. - must be included in an ethnography.


The aim is to make explicit that underlying code or regularity of behaviour that makes the culture work. To the native it is simply ‘known’ like a language but is nowhere set down systematically. The native will know how a given case would be dealt with; the ethnographer has to work back from these instances to articulate the regularity, the abstract general rules, which govern native social life.


Malinowski makes the point that writing the ethnography begins to make clear both the connections between different bits of data and the things that are missing. He describes the value of periods of fieldwork with breaks of months or even years in between in which to review and write up; on each return to the field the ethnographer has a set of questions and gaps to be filled.


It is clear that systematicity is important in the method. Malinowski describes how kinship patterns and exchange patterns have to be traced element by element to construct diagrams of relationship or exchange. This was how he came to realise that the Kula exchange was a ring; items exchanged in one direction in the ring would, after a period of time, come back to the place where they started.


While notes and writing are the main recording devices, Malinowski points to the value of synoptic charts and tables that map relationships of different types.


The observed feelings and behaviour


Malinowski recognises the value of observing and recording the mental attitude behind cultural activities. He recognises that the ‘atmosphere’ or ‘tone’ of a behaviour a situation or a setting - whether it is a religious ritual or merely the home and family life - must be captured by the ethnographer.


Malinowski writes of the “work of collecting and fixing impressions” (1 0) and recommends a diary as a way of maintaining such a record. To help capture the feel of situations, he suggests putting down the camera and notebook and joining in the native activities.


Native views and opinions


Malinowski says “Find out the typical ways of thinking and feeling, corresponding to the institutions and culture of a given community” (1 ). This injunction includes recording what people actually say in the course of their everyday activity, rather than in response to the ethnographer’s question. The recording of what is said should be in the native language, retaining their technical and jargon terms.


The Chicago School


Malinowski’s concerns with methodology were directed to anthropology and you are not going off to do field research on sunny South Pacific islands. However, the methodological guidelines he offered are entirely relevant to what you will be doing.


At around the same time as Malinowski and


Radcliffe-Brown were developing anthropological field research techniques, sociologists at the University of Chicago were developing field methods to study their own city.


The field for the sociologists was the poorer parts of Chicago, the field for the anthropologist was the distant parts of the Pacific. The geographical distance was much greater for the anthropologists but the cultural distance was perhaps as great for the sociologists.


Like the anthropologists the Chicago sociologists were reacting to a tradition that was based on ‘observation from a distance’ in which sociologists considered society from where they sat, noting the comments of others who went about in society (priests, doctors, journalists) but summarising the state of society without empirical work.


The survey tradition which emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century in the UK from the work of Engels, Mayhew and Booth, aspired to be systematic and scientific. It was further developed at the University of Chicago as one of the ways of studying communities. In the 10s Robert Park and E. W. Burgess built up data about the incidence of social problems in Chicago on research maps which showed the pattern of distribution of these problems and suggested the connection between them. Such an approach was used in for example in F. M. Thrasher’s 17 study called The Gang in which he counted Chicago gangs and located them on a map. He also counted the numbers in the gangs and their age and ethnic composition.


But the quantitative data did not show how the problems of poverty, poor housing, low educational attainment, poor health, criminal activity, use of alcohol, gambling and so on were connected in people’s lives.


So other techniques were also developed in the sociology department at Chicago which went hand in hand with the quantitative ‘mapping’ of the field of the city. These involved the sociologists getting out of the university and mixing with the people they wished to describe. Rather than simply re-organising quantitative data on aspects of social problems, a pioneering set of studies were written that developed ‘field research’ techniques.


The first that was widely regarded was Nels Anderson’s study of The Hobo in 1. Anderson had been a hobo and wrote his sociological study based on his experiences. He was describing the life-style, the behaviour and concerns of the hobo for a middle-class academic audience who had no experience of such a life. Thrasher’s study of the gang as well as quantifying and mapping gangs also included participant observation which enabled him to describe the structure of gangs and the different roles within the gang, roles such as the ‘leader’, the ‘brain’, the ‘funny boy’, the ‘sissy’, the ‘show off’ and the ‘goat’. The ‘goat’ was the dumb one who would get caught if anyone did..


The term ‘participant observer’ was coined by a Chicago sociologist called Lindeman to refer to someone who was part of the field and gave up data to the researcher. Such a person is nowadays normally referred to as a key informant - the participant observer is a researcher who goes into the field to see for themselves. Cressey’s famous 1 study of taxi-dancing (women who danced with men for money) was done in this way. A team of participant observers went into the field and gathered data on how the taxi-dancers interacted with their clients, finding out how they thought about their clients and about their role.


Another field research method developed at Chicago was the life-history used by C. R. Shaw in The Jack Roller, published in 10. A jack roller was someone who lived by what we would call mugging. He mugged easy targets, usually drunks. Shaw’s informant, Stanley, was asked to tell the researcher his life story which was recorded verbatim by a stenographer. Shaw gathered other documentary material, including the details of Stanley’s arrests and the sentences he’d received. These were used as a basis for Stanley to expand his life history as well as a check on the facticity of what he was saying.


Conclusions


For the anthropologist the society he was study was strange and exotic. Magic, rituals, a strange language, an oral culture, all made the study of how people lived very different. For the sociologists of Chicago, things were not so different; their subjects, largely spoke the same language (although they may have a slang or argot that was unfamiliar to the sociologists) and lived in the same broad culture which shares a written history.


But to understand the lives of people the Chicago sociologists had to treat the activities of gangs, hoboing, taxi dancing and so on as ‘strange’ and then to try to make them familiar by finding out what these activities and behaviours meant to the people who lived them.


As you can see, for both the anthropologists and the sociologists there are a set of problems around the ‘reality’ they are describing when the write up their field research as an ethnography. Is it the reality of the people who normally live there or is the reality of the white, middle class, male researcher?


For your first seminar you should read the first chapter in Hammersley and Atkinson’s Ethnography Principles in Practice where they discuss some of these issues.


EASTHOPE, Gary (174) The History of Social Research Methods, London Longmans.


HAMMERSLEY, Martyn & ATKINSON, Paul (15) Ethnography Principles in Practice (second edition), London Routledge.


MALINOWSKI, Bronislaw (1) Argonauts of the Western Pacific, London Routledge and Kegan Paul.





Principles and Practice of Field Research 1


From fields to cities


Introduction


What is field research?


Next term, Dave Francis and later Phil Hodgkiss will explore some of the more philosophical problems surrounding the research process.


- qualitative methods are unscientific because data are unavailable for public scrutiny.


- techniques have made no progress since they were established in the 10s


- so only useful “as a source of hypotheses to be tested more rigourously in other ways” and secondly to put “flesh on the analytical bones” of social scientific research (Easthope 174 105).


Field research


Where is this field?


‘otherness’ - the unfamiliar


but cultivated - order - history


field research = studying social life while it is still carrying on


Beginnings Anthropology


Anthropology = the study of mankind


traditionally used the stories of travellers and merchants (e.g.James Frazer’s Golden Bough)


10s field work of Radliffe-Brown in the Andaman Islands and Malinowski in the Trobriands developed a systematic approach to field work


‘ethnography’ = written description of the people


researcher goes into the ‘other culture’, lives within it, describing all aspects of the culture, language, material culture


Argonauts of the Western Pacific


Malinowski - Argonauts of the Western Pacific.


Trobriand islands east of New Guinea - Pacific Ocean


formalised system of exchanging shells known as the Kula


Along this route, articles of two kinds, and these two kinds only, are constantly travelling in opposite directions. In the directions of the hands of a clock, moves constantly one of these kinds - long necklaces of red shell, called soulava. In the opposite direction moves the other kind - bracelets of white shell called mwali. (Malinowski 1 81)


ritual trade in shells and ordinary barter of utilities


canoes - owned by the headman or chief of a tribe


Ethnographic method


Malinowski


1. living amongst the natives


. learns language


. writes descriptively; factual, empirical, general, timeless


methodological principle of Malinowki’s scientific ethnography


I consider that only such ethnographic sources are of unquestionable scientific value, in which we can clearly draw the line between, on the one hand, the results of direct observation and of native statements and interpretations, and on the other, the inferences of the author, based on his common sense and psychological insight. (Malinowski 1 )


immersed in the culture so not strange


learnt how to be a native - ‘appropriate’ behaviour


prepared theoretically by reading


guidlines to undertaking scientific fieldwork


1. Study the anatomy of the culture


rigour and comprehensiveness


make explicit underlying code or regularity of behaviour.


value of writing the ethnography


systematicity - synoptic charts and tables


. The observed feelings and behaviour


observing and recording the ‘atmosphere’ or ‘tone’ of a behaviour a situation or a setting


“work of collecting and fixing impressions”


joining in the native activities.


. Native views and opinions


recording what people actually say in everyday activity


The Chicago School


sociologists at the University of Chicago - field was the poorer parts of Chicago


survey tradition (Engels, Mayhew and Booth) - systematic and scientific - developed at the University of Chicago to study communities (e.g. F. M. Thrasher’s 17 The Gang)


but limited in describing process of cultural life


Nels Anderson The Hobo (1)


Thrasher’s study included participant observation - roles the ‘leader’, the ‘brain’, the ‘funny boy’, the ‘sissy’, the ‘show off’ and the ‘goat’


‘participant observer’ coined by Lindeman


Cressey’s 1 study of taxi-dancing (women who danced with men for money)


life-history - by C. R. Shaw in The Jack Roller, (10)


Conclusions


anthropologists studied ‘strange’ culture - Chicago sociologists too?


is the reality of the ethnography that of native or the white, middle class, male researcher?





Please note that this sample paper on field research is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on field research, we are here to assist you. Your cheap custom college paper on field research will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

Order your authentic assignment from Live Paper Help and you will be amazed at how easy it is to complete a quality custom paper within the shortest time possible!



Leave a Reply

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.