What characterizes naturalistic research?
Naturalistic observation is a research method commonly used by psychologists and other social scientists. This technique involves observing subjects in their natural environment. This type of research is often utilized in situations where conducting lab research is unrealistic, cost prohibitive or would unduly affect the subject’s behavior. Naturalistic observation differs from structured observation in that it involves looking at a behavior as it occurs in its natural setting with no attempts at intervention on the part of the researcher. Quick Summary: Naturalistic Research is the direct observation of events as they occur in their natural settings. What are some naturalistic field research methods and how would you describe them? Entails conducting observations of a particular social setting, practice or group, instead of developing a proxy for such behavior or administering a questionnaire Is systematic (a number of observations)
Is intensive (depth, through immersion, researcher becomes the research tool) Requires recording one’s observations
Is often accompanied by interviews of individuals involved in the setting, practice, or group Quick Summary: Thoroughly Conducting Numerous Observations and Recording them. They are often accompanied by Interviews of the individuals involved in the setting, practice, or group. Never altering its natural setting from start to finish.
What are some classic examples of naturalistic field research? Non-participant observation
The researcher observes subjects of the study with their consent but without taking an active role in the situation Critique: the researcher’s very presence may change how subjects would naturally act Participant observation
The researcher observes and takes part in the situation under study and often becomes immersed in the environment Critique: the researcher’s presence and interaction with study subjects will change how subjects would otherwise act Interviews:
The researcher talks with study participants, often in the field, without an interview schedule—study subjects may see this as mere conversation Informal interviewing may uncover new topics the researcher was unaware of, or help explain some phenomenon (s)he is interested in. Formal interviews
The researcher schedules a time to meet with a study subject and is guided by an interview schedule (s)he has devised In-depth interviews
This is a scheduled interview ideal for collecting in-depth data about a subject’s experiences, understandings, views and can be useful when exploring sensitive issues.
What types of interviews have we discussed and how would you describe them? When might naturalistic field research be most appropriate?
Naturalistic field research is the most appropriate when the research question involves learning about, understanding, or describing a group of interacting people: HOW do people do Y in the social world?
HOW does X group function?
It may also be best when other methods are not practical
Could you study street gangs, a social movement, or a small town effectively with a questionnaire or a lab experiment? What is the underlying philosophy of naturalistic field research? Immersion: Long-term, and in-depth contact with people as they go about their daily lives permits researchers to understand people’s beliefs and practices more fully than is possible through some other methods ?What are the origins of naturalistic field research?
Naturalism (1800s and early 1900s): social processes should be studied in their natural setting Participant observation (1920s-1950s) “Participant observation asserted that by empathetically participating in an intimate and sustained fashion the fieldworker gained privileged access to the meanings that infuse the daily lives and activities of those studied” (Emerson 2001:13). Concern over “reactive effects”: influence of observer
on study participant/group behavior
What are some basic rules to follow when making notes of field observations? Do not harm participants
Secure informed consent
Do not coerce participation
Maintain confidentiality of research data
?Why is it important to write up your notes?
Field notes can help researchers in a number of ways:
Create a visual and sensory image for yourself and for those reading your work Generate an understanding of the fieldworker’s and participants’ perspectives Documentation of initial impressions, important events, changing circumstances: This reminds the researcher about pivotal moments and how they arose and can serve as the basis for important research findings and papers communicating those findings
Documentation is extremely important!
Write notes as soon as possible after spending time in the field (or while conducting research) Notes may include: field notes from participant/non-participant observation, interview notes, text transcribed from audio recordings Memos: create memos from notes and experiences after observation and interaction, coding Thick description (Geertz): Strive for thick description– a nuanced way of taking notes that gives readers an understanding of the import of events and actions
?What is ethnographic marginality?
Read Ethnography Unbound, pp. ix-x, 1-7
What are the pros and cons of participant and nonparticipant observation? What does Burawoy mean by the hermeneutic and scientific dimensions of research? What does Burawoy argue about the role of these dimensions in participant observation? What is the point of the Venkatesh article?
How did Venkatesh explain the informant-researcher relationship in his article?