Bailey’s Guide to Qualitative Field Research, Chapters 5-6 [Dena]

The original Powerpoint is at this link: the text from the PP follows:
Bailey’s Guide to Qualitative Field Research, Chapters 5-6 [Dena]

Chapter 5
— Primary purpose of using probability sampling is to be able to
statically generalize the results
— Primarily associated with quantitative work
— Key: purposeful sampling is to select cases for systematic
study that are information rich
— Misconception = field researchers rely on convenience
sampling The OPPOSITE is true—Convenience Sampling is
weak and should be avoided
— Size of sample—use Goldilocks—not too small or large
— Good starting point is 20—keep adding cases until you have at least 5
new cases that fail to add anything new
Gaining Entrée
— Gatekeepers (those who gain or deny access)
— Johnson: progressive series of negotiations rather than a oneshot
— Give explanations to gatekeeper—greatly increases chance of
— You want to understand the setting, not judge
— Be prepared to do it again with “lesser” gatekeepers
Arrival in the Field
— Feeling out of place or having a hard time is to be expected
— However, early interactions are the groundwork for the “real”
Key Actors
— Sometimes one who saves is an insider and may act as a
— Valuable, but at a cost
— They have their own perspectives and agenda that can influence
the way they see, think, and feel.
— Do not take their perspective as a representation of the group as a whole
— May impede rather than help
— May not be well respected and may keep others from giving entrée
Informed Consent
— See Ch. 2
— Gain permission from gatekeepers
— Impossible to inform everyone who enters study setting
— Ex. Van Maanen’s study where resident thought he was a plain clothes
police officer
— Some Institutional Review Boards require you to explain your informed
consent procedures for both the regular participants and also for those
who enter the setting unknowingly
Field Relationships
— Rapport is important, helps you gain info. you might not
otherwise gain.
— Trust is not unidirectional—strive for trusting relationships
— Lays the foundation for productive and satifying working
— Same skills as making friends
q RAPPORT Easier to lose than it is to gain in the first place.
— Use multiple methods for data collection
— Multiple sources
— Collect data from divergent views
— Ie. Housing
— Observe members of residents
— Interview members of residents
— Interview authorizes from HUD
— Analyses HUD documents
Triangulation Continued
— CAUTION against rejection of data due to ID’ed
— Inconsistencies might lead to more insite

(The fourth component of field research)
Chapter 6
Planning Observations
— Observation is a major form of data collection
— Seeing with one’s own eyes—determine what is important
1. Will the observations be overt or covert?
2. Will the researcher be a participant or only an observer?
3. Where and when will observations occur?
4. Will observations be structured or unstructured?
5. What will be observed?
The answers to these questions might change
during the time in the field.
Covert or Overt
— Covert has ethical concerns connected
— Therefore, the reading only focused on overt.
Participating While Observing
— Participate or merely observe, or both
— Participant observer takes part in daily events while
— Observers only as it says!
— The researcher who engages in an ethnographic study in
more likely to participate
— Researchers should make preliminary decisions about role,
without worrying about the label of participant or observer
Structured and Unstructured
— Researcher must decide if observations will be structured,
unstructured or a combo of both
— Structured usually has a guide
— Schedule times
— Sampling procedures
— People and events to be observed
— Focus and location determined
— Important impromptu events are not ignored, by
predetermined targets are concentrated on
— Observations are not haphazard, but flexible
— Still have predetermined focus
— Dynamics in setting may change dramatically
Focus of Observations
— What should be observed?
— 1. Spaces
— 2. Objects
— 3. Actors
— 4. Act
— 5. Activity
— 6. Event
— 7. Time
— 8. Goals
— 9. Feelings
— Some of the previous features may require particpation,
while others require only observation
— Besides what happens, descriptions need to be included—
how things change should be illustrated
— What you see and cannot see (ie temperature) should be
— Use of all senses should be utilized
— The focus may change over time, becoming more selective
— When you enter a setting, physical surrounding should be the
first goal of focus
Physical Surroundings
— Size
— Lighting
— Color
— Sounds
— Objects
— Smells
Nearly all features of a individual is
potentially important
— Age
— Hairstyle
— Gender
— Cultural symbols (any social significance)
What is said through body language
— Behaviors
— Body Language
— Verbal Behaviors
— Speech Patterns
— When the action stops, observations should not stop, take a
moment to notice what isn’t happening. Examples provided:
a study of suburban community, notes who is not working in
their yard on Saturday morning, it is as important as who is.
— Observe the foreground and the background too—like a
good play, the focus and the lighting changes—not watching
the whole picture focuses only on high-status members.
Questions for Consideration
Please respond to two.
1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée?
2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?
3. How could a covert observation be unethical?
4. Explain the procedures you would provide on an IRB to protect unknowing
5. Provide a brief description of a physical environment in which you might
conduct an observation. Remember to use the senses and to describe cultural
symbols and actions not observed that may be important.


40 thoughts on “Bailey’s Guide to Qualitative Field Research, Chapters 5-6 [Dena]

  1. 1. I think that I would answer questions with as much honesty as I could but without compromising my research. I think for me that would mean that there might be some questions that I would have to provide a less than complete response. I have been told by people that I should never play poker because my face gives me away so I would have to avoid situations where being completely dishonest was necessary for me.
    5. I have done observations in places that were culturally different for me but where I felt comfortable being even through I would stand out. I usually attend a large religious conference each year. While there, I attend the religious ceremonies that are culturally accurate. At these ceremonies, all of my senses are very much involved. The major senses, visual, hearing are always heightened but the others are very much involved. Using all of my senses to participate helps to make the ceremony even more substantial. Using all of your senses when observing is very important because there may be something that you miss if you don’t think through each of the senses and how they are necessary for the work that you are doing.

    • Interesting comments about being at a religious conference and possibly standing out… I only say this because I teach for Fresno Pacific University, which is an accredited CHRISTIAN university. As a kid, I wasn’t raised in a church and only went for a few years upon moving to Bakersfield (the old and now defunct Oildale Assembly of God on Manor Street). Later in my life, I became Catholic like my wife…not sure how doing either has changed or directed the course of my life. Perhaps I can chalk it up to the mystery of faith.


      Back to my point… sometimes at FPU functions, there is a lot of activity that I don’t usually take part in. Like you, I’m comfortable and see no reason to play a part. I am who I am (did Popeye say that?) and my faith and how I practice it is my business…

      • I agree. Although I would fall into the stereotype of a devout Catholic, I don’t feel the need to put my faith on display for the most part. The conference I attend brings people from all over the world and so I have experienced the cultural differences that come with how Catholicism is practiced in different places. My reference to standing out had more to do with the fact that I am a middle-aged (depending on your definition and given that I was given a senior discount recently, I am staying with that descriptor!), conservative appearing white woman who was not in a setting normally would be “my place” in the world but as I reread my post to see what I wrote that might have brought about your response, I think that the feeling of being comfortable and not having to play a part fits well for me. You have a gift for reading between the lines!

    • Merriellen, I like how you illustrate what we’ve read about, in a non-academic setting. Explaining how the sense were important to taking in the whole experience of the ceremony is helpful. Thank you!

  2. 1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée? I would gain as much background information as possible and give the client an honest response to help make them feel comfortable with the research.

    2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
    participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?

    Typically the observation I have conducted in the doctorate program have been overt. Most of them have been pleasant experiences. Since I want to be a consultant, I would rather do overt observations. But, they both have their strenghts and weaknesses.

    • Great comments. In the end, I always hope that blatant honesty will help me (all of us) meet the needs of our entrance into a research study. I wonder if there exists, this idea of being too honest? I mean, we here about this idea of “too much honesty in our lives and relationships.” I have known people in the past that feel like they need to divulge every guilty and fleeting thought that crept across their brain… I guess that’s where someone invented the idea of TOO MUCH INFORMATION (TMI).

      Perhaps “overt” is the way to go. At least an attempt at full disclosure should pay dividends. I think that when I deal with people, I want them to know that they already have an established level of trust with me, until they prove that I can’t trust them. I think it is nice to be trusted, but personally, we need to be able to trust people too. It’s sort of a two-way street.

      • Troy, I agree, I think being overt would make it easier to anwser question and have people trust you. Can you imagine if observers were at your school and if they went from class to class without an explaination to the teachers? Even a school official accompanied them (maybe especially if), that would not fly.

      • I think we approached the point of too much honesty in Dr. Magdaleno’s class. His classes, which felt more like “sessions,” were intentionally difficult for all of us, as they made us confront ourselves — our predispositions and biases and how that influences our educational philosophies and what we do in the classroom. I don’t know that it was too much information; rather, the honesty was too blatant, too “in your face.” It exposed raw emotions for several of us. I wonder if Dr, Magdaleno was conducting research on us in that class…

    • I think the problem is in the details. For example, you may be overt to the stakeholders who haved invited/hired you, but they might want those being observed to not have all of the details.

      • Well, it’s proof positive that when someone is present (that usually isn’t present) there is an effect on the subjects. Even in our STEM Study with SOI, we had to explain who we were and complete a “full-disclosure” IRB. I’m thinking that this affected behavior. I’m also thinking that some of the results are not valid (ar at least not appropriate). At one point on the open-ended survey that we administered, a group of responders indicated that their favorite component of the SOI NASA Camp was “my mom.” Rotten kids.

      • Well, it’s proof positive that when someone is present (that usually isn’t present) there is an effect on the subjects. Even in our STEM Study with SOI, we had to explain who we were and complete a “full-disclosure” IRB. I’m thinking that this affected behavior. I’m also thinking that some of the results are not valid (ar at least not appropriate). At one point on the open-ended survey that we administered, a group of responders indicated that their favorite component of the SOI NASA Camp was “my mom.” Rotten kids.

  3. When I think of covert activity, I think of deception and exploitation that has an agenda to serve. With the discussions going on in the blog (and the classroom) it seems that acting covertly is against the law (if not against the rules). I guess I get the idea that being overt sends a message that participants and their behaviors are being watched, which could cause them to modify their behavior too! It really seems like a theme here in qualitative stats…it’s almost like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t!!!

    • Troy,
      As usual, you were able to verbalize what was percolating in my head. I agree with your descriptions of covert and overt. As I have read through the chapters and the case studies, the issue of following the rules but not revealing what you are up to with those you are observing has made me have to stop to think how exactly I would be able to pull that off. As I posted in my response, I do not have a poker face so deception is not going to work well for me in any case.

    • I had a friend who worked for Vons. She was a checker for six months in the same store. She was really there to write a report on staff morale. She had a graduate degree in sociology and she was defiantley covert. When I asked if she felt bad because she had become one of them, she said no, it was the only way to see what was really happening.

  4. 1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée? I think the key here is doing a lot of research and becoming knowledgeable about the group you will be working with and about what you will be doing there and how you will be conducting the research. This way you can ease the concerns of the client or unit of study and you can really inform them about why you are there and how intrusive your presence might be.

    2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
    participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?
    All of the observations I have been a part of have been overt. The client and unit of study have always known why my group and I were there, how often we would be there, what days, and what our final goal was. I think this has thus far been the best way to proceed with the observations we have done for the doctoral program because it helps us gain entree, helps us build a good relationship with those we are observing, and it makes things run smoother because it decreases the anxiety level those being observed might experience.

    • Gabriel, I agree. I think one of the best ways to gain entrée is to do your homeowrk! Gather and read as much information as possible. Become an expert so that you will have the ability to respond knowledgeably to questions or concerns. It is also important for people to see that you care enough about what you are doing and what they may have to contribute that you have taken the time to build background information.

      I also agree with number two, however when I was doing some of the reading last night I did begin to woner about the possibility of individuals changing their behavior, actions or responses due to the knowledge that they are being watched. Would this change be significant? Would it change the value of the research? Would it change the outome? It may really depend on the research purpose.

      • I definitely think that people change their behavior when they know they are being observed, whether they know what they are being observed for or not. However, I also do think that if they know what they are being observed for they might modify their behavior to produce the outcomes they think you are looking for or those that might be more favorable.

  5. 2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why? In a previous blog, I described how I would love to go back and complete an unobtrusive structured observation in a Lindsay Unified school to analyze the performance-based system, but after this reading and the question posed, I think ideally I would love to be an unobtrusive observer,but at times be able to ask questions and engage in some of the activities, therefore, turning into an active participant. The idea of combining a bit of both the participation observer and unobtrusive observer roles really appeals to me, and I think I would gain more vital data to analyze by using both.

    • Gabriel, I am thinking of one project we both worked on and how the staff was really uncomfortable with us being on campus. I think if we had met with them as a staff prior to going, instead of meeting with admin. we might have had a better experience and also gain real entree, not just the right to be there.

      • I completely agree. I think that when we went in we basically assumed the admin. had talked clearly to the staff about why we were there. However, after experiencing what we did I definitely think the staff would have benefited from having us personally explain our reasons for being there.

      • I am not so sure. Having an insider’s view, you were coming up against many different components which probably would have resulted in a similar outcome. I remain saddened, however, that these educators who I held as being highly professional did not show you that part of themselves. At the time I was bothered to think that I was being excluded and felt that I could have really been neutral. This class / readings have brought that project to my mind several times and I am not so sure now.

      • I agree, Dena! It was unfortunate that we learned the hard way that the staff was not as informed of our presence and purpose as we were lead to believe.

      • If you’re talking about S-T-A-N-D-A-R-D, I would have to say that those people were just really pissed at everything. From the union contract issues to the fact that some of them had been teaching since they were born…most of the observed teachers seemed downright hostile.

  6. Question #1: I would have an understanding of and background knowledge of the questions being asked, prior to starting the interview. I guess this would be the best case scenario. But, as some of my other cohort members stated I would answer them as honestly and open as possible. I would not think I would be part of a study where I would have anything to hide.

    Question #2: I would use a combination of both methods to observe our cohort classes. Often times, we are doing lecture and no discussion is going on, so being more of a passive participant might be beneficial. But, in other cases we have lively discussions, working on projects and responses. I would want to be an active participant in this case. A mixed approach in our setting might lend better results.

    • Jeff, if you were hired to find out why staff what resistant to certain changes and you were to become one of the staff members, do you think that is “having anything to hide”? I just ask, because I wonder if you would not want to be covert, or if you are thinking of being a known observer and not disclosing all.
      I think of taking political surveys where they ask you serveral questions that appear to be unrealted, when they are only interested in a specific issue.

  7. 1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée?
    Like the others have stated, I would answer as honestly as I could. I do not want to mislead any of the participants.
    2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
    participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?
    Most likely, and in the past classes this is true, I have been an active participant observer. I think it’s just in my nature to do so. I feel I learn more about the program or school when I participate in this way.

    • Certainly honesty is important. I suppose it is a trust builder. My problem with the scenario is that (at least in our coursework) we are under such great time constraints. How do we as researchers accelerate trust and aggressively prove that we are being honest in order to gain entry as quickly as possible?

      • I think that is where our professors can step in and help “grease the wheels.” It would be beneficial to have someone at CSUB who could help us gain entry as credible active researchers.

      • I agree with Valerie on the time constrain point. Time is the biggest enemy here, and you folk dont really have enough time to establish efective entre if started with nothing. Hence, using faculty connections or your own connections from before is the only way.

  8. 1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée?

    Before meeting with the client, I would research the group that I would be working with to gain as much information about them as possible. In addition, I would make sure that the client was completely familiar with the research being conducted and the procedures, gains, risks, etc. associated with the research. This would help me understand the participants and anticipate potential questions that may arise. As for any other questions that the participant might have, I would answer them as honestly as possible so that participants would not be mislead.

    2. 2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?

    I would like to use a combination of both techniques. I feel that there is value that can be gained by research from both lenses. As an observer, you might notice things that would otherwise be unnoticed if you were participating. In addition, participants often forget about observers and are more likely to show their “more authentic” actions. However, it is also nice to be able to ask participants questions and engage with them during activities. Through this role of an active participant observer, ideas, feelings, and viewpoints can be expressed by participants (aside from body language alone) which can provide more in-depth information.

    • Anna, I think you make a good point about notices the otherwise unobserved. As educators, we like to be involved and “do”. Sometimes, taking the time to notice the body language,not just the words is very valuable.

  9. 1. How would you genuinely answer questions/concerns to gain entrée?
    I would attempt to answer questions sincerely and confidently. I would emphasize the purpose of the research and what we hope to learn from it. My experience, in the projects that we have conducted in previous classes, is that when participants understand the purpose of the research, they tend to be more open to responding to questions. Those of us who were involved in the Standard Middle School curriculum review learned some great lessons – in addition to the lessons that were part of our formal course curriculum. Many of you pointed out the value of sharing with the staff the purpose of the study prior to conducting the various research activities. For some of the teachers, as Merriellen knowingly pointed out, it would not make a difference. For others, I think it may have allowed them to feel they were contributing to a research project and not that they were being judged by a group of doctoral students or by an extension of their administration. With the project that Evelyn and I worked on recently, we stated our purpose right up front and the person who gave us entree reinforced that message with the troops. Some of the answers we got were not just truthful, but quite blunt and politically incorrect. The participants knew that we would be using the information to influence policy changes that would impact them and their students. That seemed to make a difference. They certainly didn’t hold back. Of course, I think that if you can be honest and open, you should make that effort. If being honest and open limits the information you will get, then like the researchers in the previous assignment, that is an ethical and strategic call you will have to make.
    2. If you are going to conduct an observation for our class, will you be an active
    participant observer, observer, or combination of both? Why?
    I plan to be a participant observer. Sometimes participants are more reserved or cautious with their actions and words when the researcher is solely an observer. I believe the key to getting people to relax and be authentic is to be around them enough that they think you are part of the scenery. As a participant observer, you are able to do that. In addition, as solely an observer, the researcher makes assumptions that can’t be immediately clarified by the participants. As a participant observer, you can ask, for example, “Why is that student sitting in the back of the room with his desk turned facing the wall?” You may find that although you believed the student was being punished, she was actually making up a test. A participant observer can also clarify cultural symbols or terms that he/she may not understand. Not all research lends itself to the role of a participant observer, but it is certainly my preferred role.

    • The honest, blunt, and politically incorrect answers that participants provided you during your study were probably more valuable because you were up front with the participants and let them know that you were there to try to influence a change. I think that researchers should definitely keep this in mind. In my district the superintendent sends out an email survey asking us to rate our school and district on multiple levels. There is a lot of identifying information that is requesting and mandated on the survey such as school site, grade level, and department. Since these items are required, many teachers do not answer the survey honestly because they do not want any repercussions from the answers that they provide. If the survey would remove such identifying characteristics, more teachers would answer honestly and the district would then be able to make improvements based on the areas of need.

    • I think you make a good point about the student facing the wall. That is why we have to remember as observers to write only what is observable, not what is assumed. I know when I do teacher observations, I script what is seen, heard, etc. Then, I write questions for the discussion that is scheduled later.
      While we were doing our observations, for this class, we actually noticed what wasn’t observed, that led to other observations. Not seeing/smelling/hearing what you expect also creates an opinion.

  10. 5. Provide a brief description of a physical environment in which you might
    conduct an observation. Remember to use the senses and to describe cultural
    symbols and actions not observed that may be important.
    A physical environment that I might conduct an observation is a fifth grade classroom. Some of the things that my sense of vision would note would be the concepts of print on the wall, examples of student work that is posted including any visible feedback on their work from the teacher or fellow students, the classroom arrangement of desks, chairs, and other furniture, the circulation patterns that the teacher follows, the items that are written on the board or posted on the SmartBoard, any tracking charts like homework, AR points, and conduct. The interactions between the students, including gender and ethnic preference would be of importance. In terms of my sense of hearing, I would note the content that is spoken by the teacher and students, including the tone of voice used and the level of vocabulary. I would also note the patterns of noise during the different activities of the lesson (direct instruction, guided practice, independent practice, etc). Also of importance would be distracting noises such as the AC unit, bells, and intercom interruptions. My sense of smell would be bombarded by the scent of pubescent boys and girls especially after PE or recess. Other scents of note might include the cup of coffee on the teacher’s desk and the scent of dry erase marker on the boards. My sense of taste would most likely not be used as much in a classroom setting unless I observed a lesson that included food such as following a recipe. My sense of touch might note the soft fabric walls or the cold, hard feel of the desks. Some classrooms can be an overwhelming surge on the senses. Have you been to some primary classrooms lately? While some classrooms are devoid of any warmth and student input.

    • Yes, I have been in many primary classrooms. I find that the classrooms that are inviting, student centered, allow for student input, and display student achievements are often the most structured classrooms with higher student learning. It is very important for students to be allowed to set their goals, reach their goals, and take ownership and pride their learning accomplishments. This is accomplished when several modalities of learning are addressed through multiple senses.

  11. Please respond to two.

    3. How could a covert observation be unethical?

    An observation could be unethical if it withholds from the study participants information that could put them at risk, breaches confidentiality, privacy, leads someone to break the law, or fails to report a breaking of law.

    5. Provide a brief description of a physical environment in which you might
    conduct an observation. Remember to use the senses and to describe cultural
    symbols and actions not observed that may be important.

    I am a vocalist. I might conduct an observation of a music concert. Visually, I would observe such features as the venue, setting, accommodations, staging, instruments, equipment, lighting, appearance of the band and vocalists and their interaction with each other and the audience. Aurally, I would observe the musicianship, the skill of the band as a whole and its individual players, as well as the audience response. I would sense the energy of the concert. I would observe the branding, merchandising, symbols, promotions, and “hooks” the band uses to get people to buy their merchandise. I would observe the kinds of people who attend the concert and the comments made as people are leaving the venue.

  12. Back when I was in elementary school, we had field trips to symphony orchestra concerts. It was intriguing to hear the conductor talk about the various instruments, show a movie clip with the sound muted, have the orchestra play a light hearted melody and a dark melody and ask us to determine which one best fit the movie scene. The conductor also would have the orchestra play a melody and ask us to picture what could be going on in an accompanying movie scene. An observation of the local symphony audience of a symphony for kids audience would be an interesting observation.

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