Bailey’s Guide to Qualitative Field Research, Chapters 2-4 [Andrew]

Chapter 2, Ethical Issues in Qualitative Field Research

Example:  Laud Humphreys (1970)

–       Informed Consent

  • “Basic ethical tenet of scientific research on human populations.  Sociologists do not involve a human being as a subject in research without the informed consent of the subject or the subject’s legally authorized representative…” (American Sociological Association, 1999, p. 12).
  • To obtain consent, research must make potential participants aware of these 11 things, making sure to use language that is understandable:

ü  that they are participating in research

ü  the purpose of the research

ü  the procedures used during the research

ü  the risks and benefits of the research

ü  the voluntary nature of the research participation

ü  their right to stop the research at any time

ü  the procedures used to protect confidentiality

ü  their right to have all their questions answered at any time

ü  other information relevant to the participants

ü  what is required of them if they consent to participate

ü  that refusal to participate or withdraw at any time will lead to no foreseeable consequences (American Sociological Association, 1999, p. 13).

  • However, not quite so cut and dry, either.  The researcher does not have to obtain informed consent if the “research involves no more than minimal risk for research participants” and “the research could not practically be carried out were informed consent to be required” (American Sociological Association, 1999, p. 12).

–       Deception

  • Deception results when people are not told they are participating in a study, are misled about the purpose or details of the research, or are not aware of the correct identity or status of the researcher.
  • Different thoughts about deceptions.  Gans (1962) expressed this view when he wrote, “If the researcher is completely honest with people about his activities, they will try to hide actions and attitudes they consider undesirable, and so will be dishonest. Consequently, the researcher must be dishonest to get honest data” (p. 42).
  • Covert research, which is conducted without those in the setting being aware of the researcher’s dual roles—participant and researcher. If the members in the setting are aware of the dual roles, the research is classified as overt research.
  • The ASA says (about deception), “[S]ociologists do not use deceptive techniques”…“Sociologists never deceive research participants about significant aspects of the research that would affect their willingness to participate, such as physical risks, discomfort, or unpleasant emotional experiences”.  However, deception can be considered ethical if
    • (a) the deception will not harm the participants,
    • (b) the deception is justified by the study’s value,
    • (c) alternative procedures are not possible, and
    • (d) the research has the approval of an Institutional Review Board..
  • If these conditions are met and deception deemed a needed feature of the research design, the code requires that sociologists, “attempt to correct any misconceptions that research participants may have no later than at the conclusion of the research” (American Sociological Association, 1999, p. 14).

–       Confidentiality

  • Research is anonymous when the researcher is not able to identify the participants in the study.
  • Maintaining confidentiality becomes particularly problematic when authorities think the researcher has knowledge that a law has been violated.
  • The code states that you should either (a) not do the research or (b) indicate clearly on the informed consent and discuss thoroughly with participants that if faced with legal threat, you will break confidentiality.

–       Institutional Review Board (review)

Discussion Questions, Chapter 2:

1)    After the entirety of the chapter, could the argument be made that the Laud Humphrey field research was ethical?  Why or why not?

2)    Review the scenario on pages 26 and 27 regarding Van Maanen.  Should Van Maanen have reported the incident or not?  Explain your response, citing the ASA code. 

3)    Regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:

  1. a.     Is informed consent required?
  2. b.     If so, who in the setting with receive the informed consent?
  3. c.     What will be included in the informed consent?
  4. d.     Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity?
  5. e.     How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected?

 

Chapter 3, Prelude to Qualitative Fieldwork

Selection Process:

–       Ethical Issues

  • Questions to ask include if the research can be done without deception, how difficult it might be to maintain confidentiality, what the chances are of getting dirty hands—participating in illegal behavior or behavior against ones own moral standards, what are the chances or someone else getting hurt, and what are the chances of yourself getting hurt?

–       Practicality

  • Time
  • Interpersonal skills

–       Accessibility

  • Range from open to close and fall anywhere in between.
  • If restricted, is there a better setting choice where you already have more access?

–       Familiar versus Unfamiliar

  • Debate continues with whether a familiar or unfamiliar setting is most advantageous.
  • Author encourages researchers to go outside of their own comfort zone.

–       Record Keeping

  • Dependability audit—reviewing records of everything done during the research—is one of the things used to assess the quality of your research.
  • In addition to keeping records of your activities during every stage of the research, you should periodically review your notes to help you plan what to do next.

–       Goals and Research Questions

  • Goals or questions need to be articulated early enough.

–       Review of Literature

  • Aside from what one might already know, make sure to immerse yourself in the relevant literature in preparation for the suitable setting.

–       Final Preparations

  • Be prepared!
  • Be ready with pen/paper, or MULTIPLE recorders/batteries
  • Murphy’s Law appears in the field often…

 

Discussion Questions, Chapter 3:

4)    How might you use this chapter’s suggestions to best prepare for your own dissertation/field work research?  Specifically, if you only took ONE best piece of advice, what would it be and why?

5)    What are your views on the benefits and costs of physically taking notes (not using a recorder)?  Try to explain using your experience from a previous/current class.

 

Chapter 4, The Infrastructure of Qualitative Field Research

The field researcher does not proceed through steps one after the other, but instead works on several parts simultaneously.

–       (1) Paradigms

  • A paradigm is “a basic set of beliefs that guide action” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003, p. 245).
  • All paradigms that guide field research have four major, interrelated beliefs about ontology, epistemology, methodology, and axiology.
    • Ontology:  Is there a “Truth” that can be known?
    • Epistemology:  Is what is learned independent of the researcher?
    • Methodology:  How should the research go about finding out about social reality?
    • Axiology:  What is the role of values in the research process?
  • Positivist Paradigm
    • Begins with a theory; on the basis of the results of the data analysis, the researcher decides whether there is empirical support for the hypothesis.
      • Objective reality exists (ontology)
      • What can be learned about the social world exists independently of the researcher (epistemology)
      • Reliability, validity, and generalizability (methodology)
      • Objective and value-free (axiology)
  • Interpretive Paradigm
    • The social world is not an entity in and of itself but is local, temporally and historically situated, fluid, context-specific, and shaped in conjunction with the researcher (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p.109).
      • No objective social reality but instead multiple realities (ontology)
      • What is learned in research does not exist independently of the researcher (epistemology)
      • Interactions with and observations of participants in the setting (methodology)
      • Rejects the view that value neutrality is essential to the research process (axiology)
  • Critical Paradigm
    • Seeks to empower the people in a setting and to work toward meaningful social change (Neuman, 1991, p. 81).
      • There is no single “reality out there” (ontology)
      • Researcher is not independent from what is researched and that the findings of research are mediated through his or her values (epistemology)
      • Often takes a macro approach to research (methodology)
      • values are important to the research and should be clearly articulated in the work and to the participants (axiology)

–       (2) Theory

  • Theories are important for selecting a topic, creating goals, developing research questions, and collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data.  These develop over time and are chosen in different ways.

–       (3) Tradition of inquiry

  • “Participant observation” and “ethnography” are two common names for field research. Different types of ethnographies include ethnographic case study, critical ethnography, and the more controversial autoethnography (Morse & Richards, 2002).
  • There are many strategies of inquiry for qualitative researchers (case studies, biographies, grounded theory, clinical research, phenomenological research, evaluation research, participatory action research, ethnographies, and scholar activist approaches (Kershaw, 2005).

Handled in future chapters:

–       (4) Methodology

–       (5) Methods

–       (6) Data analysis

–       (7) Final manuscript

 

Discussion Questions, Chapter 4:

6)    Is it possible to include value judgments in the research process and still conduct unbiased research? Explain your response, possibly using a personal example from your previous/current classes. 

7)    Review the ontological, epistemological, axiological, and methodological assumptions of positivist, interpretive, and/or critical paradigms. Which of these is most consistent with your own beliefs? Explain why.

8)    Aside from your own beliefs, which one yields the most accurate information, in your opinion, and why?

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21 thoughts on “Bailey’s Guide to Qualitative Field Research, Chapters 2-4 [Andrew]

  1. I found chapter 2 quite interesting. Here are my responses to the questions posed for chapter 2.

    1) After the entirety of the chapter, could the argument be made that the Laud Humphrey field research was ethical? Why or why not?
    Were Humphrey’s field research practices ethical? I do not believe so based on the ASA code. Bailey goes on to cite why it would be considered acceptable, however, the skeptic in me believes that this allowance of breaking ethical rules is more due to the researcher’s accomplishments to date. I wonder if the same rules for allowing such a break in ethical conduct would be allowed for a doctoral student or a new professional. Any point can be argued, but to state that acting as a lookout for men who engaged in sex in public restrooms is a “naturalistic observation in public places,” is a bit far-fetched. He did not identify himself and he changed his appearance after tracking them down (stalking) in order to conduct the interview. I would agree that the research could not practically be carried out were informed consent be required, but is that enough?

    2) Review the scenario on pages 26 and 27 regarding Van Maanen. Should Van Maanen have reported the incident or not? Explain your response, citing the ASA code.
    Police brutality, unfortunately, is nothing new. Van Maanen could have chosen to inform officers of a limit of confidentiality where police brutality was an issue; he did not. The two police officers fully expected that all activity would be kept strictly confidential. He abided by the ASA Maintaining Confidentiality and Limits of Confidentiality. As for Bulmer’s argument about exposing public officials to discourage wrongdoings, while an admirable point of view, to do so ethically means fully disclosing limits of liability to participants or foregoing one’s research for the greater good.

    3) Regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:
    1. a. Is informed consent required?
    2. b. If so, who in the setting with receive the informed consent?
    3. c. What will be included in the informed consent?
    4. d. Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity?
    5. e. How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected?
    Project: CSUB Student Retention Analysis (I hope to be able to continue this project)
    Yes, informed consent is required. All the focus group participants would receive the informed consent. All 11 pieces of information would be included for the participants review. Covert research is a possibility. It has been suggested that I must have the CSUB advisors participate in a focus group in order to understand their perspective and how this impacts students. If I hold interviews or focus groups for the advisors, the information is more likely to be skewed – only tell me what they think I want to hear. There are 617 potential interviewees. The contact information for all students would be kept in a password protected excel file on a work computer. Once contacted for interview, the contact information will not be used and once the study is complete, the entire contact information file will be deleted. As for the focus group interviews, transcription of the interviews will be conducted. The use of first names only, along with participant provided demographic information will be the only identification information used until the transcription is complete. After this, the names will be dropped as it is hoped that we can garner emergent themes and categorize the responses based on those

    • I understand why you need to hold interviews or focus groups with the advisors. However, is there some aspect of the focus groups that could be changed so that the participants will not tell you what they think that you want to hear?Do you think that talking with the participants and explaining to them that you are wanting to make positive changes could help produce more viable results?

      • Hi, Anna,
        The suggestion for me to remove myself from the situation is well understood – ensuring anonymity leads to more candid responses – yet, I honestly don’t feel that the group of advisors I work with would censor themselves. But, in the interest of following all guidelines in order to have my work be considered a serious study, I would agree to comply.

  2. “Informed Consent Reply”

    In a topic I am considering involves sixth through twelfth grade students and teachers. Informed consent would most certainly apply in this study. Examining student performance, interviewing students, administering teacher surveys are all instruments in this project. A full description of the instrumentation, the purpose of the research, the process, the risks and benefits of the research study, etc., are all aspects included in the informed consent to my potential participants. Furthermore, the research will not be covert. The participants will be aware of my dual role, which is why it will be classified as overt. Finally, the data collected from the participants will be coded, as well as the participants in the study will be coded for anonymity.

    • Sounds like the chapter really applies to this consideration. Did it bring up any issues or questions you’d need to address?

  3. Informed Consent–
    Regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:
    a. Is informed consent required?
    In the topic I am considering, informed consent is needed.
    b. If so, who in the setting with receive the informed consent?
    I plan to observe students and teachers, interview students, teachers, and administrators, and survey participants.
    c. What will be included in the informed consent?
    A description of the research plan, the instruments used for assessment, and the purpose of the research.
    d. Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity?
    My research will be overt. Participants will be made aware of my role as researcher.
    e. How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected?
    Data collected will be coded for anonymity.

    • Will you be conducting interviews with teachers at your own site? If so, how will you make sure that the results you receive will be “authentic” and not skewed based on what the teachers feel that you might want to hear as a response? Could this possible issue be resolved with triangulation?

  4. Just an FYI – minors give assent, not consent – informed consent is required of a parent or a guardian if a child/youth is involved in a research study.

  5. In response to the prompt to review the scenario on pages 26 and 27 regarding Van Maanen. Should Van Maanen have reported the incident or not? Explain your response, citing the ASA code.:
    according to the ethical code of confidentiality 11.02 a) which states that sociologists inform themselves fully of the laws and rules which may limit or alter their guarantee of confidentiality, in addition b) states that sociologists may confront unanticipated circumstances where they become aware of information that may be “life-threatening” to participants. In this sense I think that a call would have to be made in order to preserve the life of the alleged victim. The code of confidentiality should not overide the responsibility to protect a life. Even if that life belongs to an elleged criminal. In the examples stated on page 28 given to illustrate if this code is an easy one to follow considering the identity of those involved clearly there are circumstance that make this less cut and dry, however, my personal opinion is that no research is worth risking human life and putting others in danger or allowing dangerous situations to continue.

  6. In response to the first question, I believe that one can argue that Humphreys’s research did not need to meet the requirement of informed consent due to the fact that it was a naturalistic observation in a public bathroom. However, it does not make it ethical. Ultimately, the deceptive nature of the research methodology tarnishes the informative outcomes of the project because it violated the human subject’s right to privacy. The projected benefits of the research results were obtained in a manner that if left unchallenged could lead to many abuses in future research projects.
    In response to the Van Maanen case, I believe that he did the right thing because breaching the confidentiality agreement would have jeopardized future research projects. However, this case argues for the need to have exceptions to the confidentiality agreement so that human subjects outside of the immediate participants are protected from harm and injury. The confidentiality agreement should not absolve researchers from the moral obligation to intervene when a crime is being committed.

    • Agree with what you say overall, but I feel like you might be trying to say (in the beginning) that you, “believe that one can argue that Humphrey’s research DID meet the requirement…” and I think I’d agree…and then agree that it does not make it ethical. If I am wrong, let me know, but I was thinking along those lines as I read. I was wondering if it were possible to “technically” meet a lot of the requirements, but still be unethical. If so, this might be such a case. Good post!

      • Andrew, you have summed it up perfectly. What might be acceptable under the definition doesn’t quite feel right.

  7. Regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:
    a. Is informed consent required?
    For the topic I am considering, because I am planning to utilize surveys and interviews, Yes!
    b. If so, who in the setting with receive the informed consent?
    I plan to give surveys and interview students, teachers, and administrators.
    c. What will be included in the informed consent?
    A description of how I will conduct the research, the tools (surveys, etc.) that I will be using and they will be presented with the purpose of the research.
    d. Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity?
    No, my research will be overt. The teachers, administrators, and students will know the reasons why I am present and why I am conducting the research.
    e. How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected?
    The data that is collected will be coded and no names will be attached to any of the surveys.

  8. I am not sure I am supposed to answer all of these or just the questions I like : ) Anyway, regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:
    1.a. Is informed consent required? Yes, definitely. I am wanting to do surveys, interviews, etc.
    2.b. If so, who in the setting with receive the informed consent? Students, teachers, and administrators.
    3.c. What will be included in the informed consent? procedures, benefits and risks, etc.
    4.d. Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity? No, overt.
    5.e. How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected? Data will be collected and coded.

  9. Both of the cases presented, Humphrey and Van Maanen, bothered me from my ethical standpoint as a person but I can see where they meet the requirements of the Code to some degree. In the case of Humphrey, I think that he needed to find a better way to gather his information for the research. His taking license plate numbers and doing a search for the owners just feels creepy to me. I also feel as though the actions bordered on the illegal; I wondered how he could gather that information in a legal way and it made me a little fearful that someone might be able to do that with my license plate. The entire sitting in a restroom and observing felt creepy to me also. I would definitely not want to be involved in something like that without some protocol being clarified.
    In the Van Maanen case, the brutality of the police bothered me also but as it was set up, I can understand how the researcher felt correct in doing what he did. Again, it I were placed into a research project such as this I would want to have protocols and what-if’s clarified before I could comfortably begin.

  10. 7. The interpretive paradigm is defined as viewing the social world that is not an entity in and of itself but is local, temporally and historically situated, fluid, context-specific, and shaped in conjunction with the researcher (Guba & Lincoln, 1994, p.109) , and is most closely related to the beliefs I have about how qualitative research is conducted. No research is completely objective free (ontology), nor does research exist independently from the researcher (epistemology). Interactions with and observations of participants in the setting (methodology) seem to be vital to obtain good observable data. I do not think value neutrality is purely possible, and, therefore, it cannot be essential to the research process (axiology).
    8. I think the positivist model is what most scientists would aspire to produce, but I do not think any research can be truely value free. I think it is debatable as to which paradigm produces the most accurate information because a purely positivist model could produce clean and clear data, but without an interpretation that is locally, temporally and historically situated the information could be very inaccurate. Value free data could produce inaccurate results.

  11. 3) Regarding one of the projects/dissertation ideas you have in this EDD program, answer the following questions:
    a. Is informed consent required?
    Yes, the informed consent will be needed to collect data from observations, focus groups, and surveys.

    b. If so, who in the setting will receive the informed consent?
    Informed consent will be needed from students, teachers, administrators, and parents of students.

    c. What will be included in the informed consent?
    That they are participating in research, the purpose of the research, the procedures used during the research, the risks and benefits of the research, the voluntary nature of the research participation, their right to stop the research at any time, the procedures used to protect confidentiality, their right to have all their questions answered at any time, what is required of them if they consent to participate, that refusal to participate or withdraw at any time will lead to no foreseeable consequences

    d. Will the research be covert and include the deception to prevent reactivity?
    No, participants will be told they are participating in a study, will not be misled about the purpose or details of the research, and will be aware of the correct identity or status of the researcher.
    In addition, the researchers will not be participating in dual roles—participant and researcher.

    e. How will the confidentiality of the participants in the setting be protected?
    No identifying data from the participants will be recorded aside from school site and grade level. Instead, participant numbers will reference participants and data will be coded for anonymity.

  12. Informed Consent-
    I still have not nailed down a topic but one that I am currently considering would involve multiple interviews and data gathering from Directors of After School Programs, School District Administrators, Teachers, and Site Administrators. This would require informed consent becaue it is more than collecting observational data. In order to carry out this study I would be required to describe the research and the purpose of the data collection. I would also have to let the participants know that it is entirely voluntary and they are able to withdraw from participating at any time. In addition there would need to be a clear description of the research tools to be used as well as how it will be evaluated. This researach would be done in an overt manner and all particiapnts would be well aware of their particiaption in the project. In order to protect anonymity I would need to codify all data collected and assign numerical values to the responses or have the surveys written in such a way that the responses were recorded in this manner. My plan is to focus on all of the avialable data that can be quantified due to the time constraints and the desire to finish on time!!

  13. Like Merriellen, I believe both of the scenarios with Laud Humphreys and Van Maanen technically met the ASA code but not the ethical/moral code. In essence, the techniques “met the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law.” What bothered me most about Laud Humphreys’ field research is that he was not only deceptive, but that his actions made the men in his study very vulnerable. The information he collected through deceit, in the wrong hands, could’ve easily destroyed the lives of his subjects. I think he stretched the boundaries to the limit. He lied to the research subjects, disguised himself, took down their license plate numbers, tracked them to their homes and asked questions that did not necessarily pertain to his research, but to that of his colleague. As I was reading the account, I couldn’t help but wonder to what lengths a researcher like him would go to get the information he wanted. Did he at any time threaten his subjects with exposure if they didn’t respond to his questions? Why would the men – especially homosexual men who were denying their sexuality – feel comfortable talking about health issues in their home? Would they necessarily be truthful if their wives or children were in the room next door and could overhear them or come into the room at any moment? The fact that he went to such extremes to gather his data made me question the accuracy or truthfulness of his study.

  14. Pingback: (Bailey) A Guide to Qualitative Field Research. Chapters 2-4 [Lisa] | Qualitative Methods

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