Participant Observation A Guide for Fieldworkers

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-12-16
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press

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Qualitative research in such diverse areas as sociology, education, nursing, and medical research draws on the insights gained through the use of participant observation for gaining greater understanding of phenomena from the point of view of participants. This book serves as a basic primer for the beginning researcher and as a useful reference and guide for experienced researchers who wish to re-examine their own skills and abilities in light of best practices of participant observation.

Author Biography

Kathleen M. DeWalt is professor of anthropology and public health and director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. Billie R. DeWalt is the founding president and director of the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
What is Participant Observation?p. 1
The Method of Participant Observationp. 1
History of the Methodp. 5
Why Participant Observation Is Importantp. 10
Enhancing the Quality of Data Collection and Analysisp. 10
Formulating New Research Questionsp. 15
Notesp. 16
Learning to be a Participant Observer: Theoretical Issuesp. 19
Learning To Be a Participant Observerp. 20
Observation and Participationp. 21
Participation and Observation: An Oxymoron in Action?p. 28
What Determines the Role a Researcher Will Adopt?p. 30
Limits to Participation?p. 33
Beyond the Reflexivity Frontierp. 35
Participant Observation on the Fast Trackp. 38
Notesp. 39
Doing Participant Observation: Becoming a Participantp. 41
Entering the Fieldp. 41
First Contactp. 44
Establishing Rapportp. 47
Breaking Throughp. 54
Talking the Talkp. 56
Walking the Walkp. 58
Making Mistakesp. 61
Notesp. 66
The Costs of Participation: Culture Shockp. 67
Coping with Culture Shockp. 73
Participating and Parenting: Children and Field Researchp. 74
Reverse Culture Shock (Reentry Shock)p. 77
Notep. 78
Doing Participant Observation: Becoming an Observerp. 79
The Role of Theory and Conceptual Frameworksp. 80
Taking the Observer Rolep. 81
Attending to Detail: Mapping the Scenep. 81
(Participatory) Community Mappingp. 84
Countingp. 85
Attending to Conversationp. 87
Field Notes as a Training Tool for Observationp. 87
Seeing Old Events with New Eyesp. 88
Practicing and Improving Observation and Memoryp. 88
What to Observep. 89
Just Experiencingp. 92
Limits to Observationp. 92
Ethnographer Biasp. 94
Notesp. 96
Gender an Sex Issues in Participant Observationp. 99
The Gendered Ethnographerp. 99
Up Close and Personal: Sex in the Fieldp. 102
Notep. 108
Designing Research with Participant Observationp. 109
Participant Observation and Research Designp. 109
Fundamentals of Design of Participant Observationp. 111
Objectivityp. 111
Reliabilityp. 112
Elements of Designp. 123
Choosing a Questionp. 123
Appropriate Questionsp. 124
Choosing a Sitep. 126
Appropriate Methods and the Benefits of Triangulationp. 127
Enhancing Representativeness: Sampling in Participant Observationp. 128
Proposing Participant Observationp. 133
Research Objectivesp. 135
Notesp. 136
Informal Interviewing in Participant Observationp. 137
Types of Interviewsp. 138
Interview Techniquesp. 142
Active Listeningp. 142
Sensitive Silencep. 143
The Uh-huh Promptp. 145
Repetition Feedbackp. 147
Summary Feedbackp. 148
Asking Questions in Interviewingp. 149
Tell Me Morep. 149
For Clarificationp. 150
Na´ve Questionsp. 150
Avoiding Confrontationp. 151
Changing Topicsp. 152
Talking About Sensitive Subjectsp. 153
Concluding an Interviewp. 155
Notesp. 156
Writing Field Notesp. 157
Historyp. 157
Kinds of Field Notesp. 160
Jot Notesp. 160
Expanded Notes: Field Notes Properp. 165
Methodological Notesp. 168
Diaries and Journalsp. 168
Logsp. 169
Meta-notes/Analytic Notesp. 170
Headnotesp. 171
Field Notes in Virtual Researchp. 173
How to Recordp. 174
Research Integrity: Who Owns the Field Notesp. 176
Notesp. 178
Analyzing Field Notesp. 179
Process of Data Analysisp. 180
Managing Qualitative Datap. 180
Data Reductionp. 181
Approaches to Indexingp. 184
Coding for Themesp. 189
Coding for Characteristicsp. 192
Managing Coding and Indexingp. 192
Word Searchesp. 193
Data Displayp. 196
Quotesp. 196
Vignettes and Casesp. 197
Tables and Matricesp. 198
Chartsp. 199
Decision Modelingp. 202
Interpretation and Verificationp. 202
Audit Trailsp. 205
Writing Upp. 207
Notesp. 210
Ethical Concerns in Participant Observationp. 211
Need for Competencyp. 212
The Meaning of Informed Consent in Participant Observationp. 214
Right to Privacyp. 218
Ethical Conduct of Participant Observation in Online Settingsp. 219
Ethical Publicationp. 221
Relationshipsp. 222
Ethics and the Limits to Participationp. 224
Notep. 226
Appendix: Sample Field Notes from Three Projectsp. 227
Bibliographyp. 251
Indexp. 265
About the Authorsp. 277
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