Bailey, C. A. (2007). A Guide to Qualitative Field Research 2nd Edition
Chapter 5: Methodology
Key concepts of methodology according to Bailey include sampling, gaining entry, arrival in the field, key actors, maintaining relationships in the field, and triangulation.
- Sampling: The purpose of probability sampling is to be able to generalize statistical results. Ethnographers or field researchers use purposeful sampling when selecting interview subjects.
- Select cases that are information rich.
- Convenience sampling is the weakest form of sampling.
- Use “Goldilocks Rule” Too small leads to misleading results and too big makes in-depth analysis difficult.
- 20 is a good starting point.
- Gaining Entry: Gatekeepers in any organization will grant or deny access. This access must be continuously negotiated (Burgess, 1991). In order to gain entry, researchers must be prepared to explain the purpose of the research; they need a good sense of what you are doing. It is important to discuss issues and it is critical to understand the setting.
- Arrival in the field: It is not uncommon to feel stupid, clumsy, and out of place. The initial interactions lay the groundwork for the research.
- Key actors: Researchers need to identify key actors quickly. They may act as a guide and can be very valuable to the research. Be aware of their personal bias and agendas because they can positively or negatively whether they are respected or not. It is good to keep in mind that their perspective may not be representative of the group.
- Maintaining field relationships: It is important to build rapport quickly. This will allow the researcher to gain information they may not otherwise gain access to. Researchers must strive for trusting relationships. Very similar skill set as building friendships. Honesty, openness, and friendliness are necessary to the process.
- Triangulation: Use multiple methods for data collection. Researchers should observe people at different times and in different places to increase validity. Collect data from divergent views. Be cautious against rejecting data due to inconsistences because these inconsistences could lead to more insight.
Chapter 6: Observations
Observation is an important form of data collection. When researchers directly observe they are able to determine what is important to include in the research.
- Will the observations be covert or overt?
- Covert observations can have ethical concerns.
- Overt observations make up the majority of research.
- Will the researcher participate in the study or just observe?
- In ethnographic research, the researcher is more likely to participate.
- Be clear on boundaries.
- Where and when will the observations occur?
- Will interviews be structured, unstructured, or a combination?
- Structured observations usually have scheduled times and sampling procedures.
- Unstructured are flexible and researchers focus on what is relevant as events unfold.
- What will be observed?
- Possible focus for observations according to Spradley (1980) can be spaces, objects, actors, act (single actions), activity (set of related acts), events (set of related activities), feelings, and behaviors. What the researcher is trying to accomplish and the goal of the research will determine what should be observed.
Researchers should use all of their senses while observing. What can’t be seen may be just as important as what can be seen. Physical surroundings should be the first focus when entering a setting. Consider the size of the space, lighting, color choices, sounds, objects, and smells.
When observing an individual, every feature could be important such as dress, hairstyle, gender, body language, verbal behaviors, speech patterns, and actions. All of these features can be critical to the analysis. An observer should try to always be “on.”
Questions for Consideration:
- How have you established rapport with your key actors in your current project or previous research project?
- What would you do if you realized your key actor is not highly thought of in the organization? How will this affect your research?
- Considering all of the variables that should be observed, how does one person manage to observe all the nuances of a setting and the participants?
- Will you be a participant or an observer? What would be the drawbacks of participating in your research?
- Bailey says that when triangulating, one should not discount inconsistencies because they can lead to insights. How could this be important to your research?
- What are approaches you have tried or could try to gain entry into a setting you have no association with?