Field Work in Sociology
1. Sociological fieldwork differs from anthropological fieldwork not so much in content but in its context i.e. where it is done; and in the distribution of emphasis across different areas ortopics of research.
2. A sociologist would also live among a community and attempt to become an ‘insider’. However, unlike anthropologist who went to a remote tribal community to do fieldwork, sociologists did their fieldwork among all sorts of communities.
3. Sociological fieldwork did not necessarily involve living in, although it did involve spending most of one's time with the members of the community.
4. William Foote Whyte, an American sociologist, did his fieldwork among members of a street-gang in an Italian-American slum in a large city and wrote a book called — The Street Corner Society. He lived the area for three and a half years ‘hanging out' or just spending time with members of the gang, who were mostly poor unemployed youth, the first American — born generation in a community of immigrants.
There are some difficulties in conducting fieldwork in sociology. They are:
a) Sociologists don't deal with primitive tribes but modern communities, where people are literate. This implies that some of these people will read the research report. If s/he disguises the name of the district, many outsiders apparently will not discover where the study was actually located. The people in the district, however, know that it is about them, and even the changed names don't disguise the individuals forthem.
b) In such a situation, the researcher carries a heavy responsibility. The researcher would like the research to be of some help to the people of the district. Researcher wants to minimise the chances of doing any harm, fully recognizing that certain individuals may suffer through the publication.
Field work in Indian Sociology (Why were village studies important part of Indian Sociology?)
1. In Indian Sociology, an important way in which fieldwork was used was in village studies.
2. The village acted as the equivalent of the tribal community studied by the earlier anthropologists. It was a bounded community, and was small enough to be studied by a single person i.e. the sociologist could get to know almost everyone in the village, and observe life there.
3. Anthropology was not very popular with nationalists in colonial India because of its excessive concern with the primitive. Many educated Indians felt that disciplines like anthropology carried a colonial bias because they emphasised the non-modern aspects of colonised societies rather than their progressive side.
4. Village studies were important also because they provided Indian sociology with a subject that was of great interest in newly independent India. The government was interested in developing rural India. The national movement and specially Gandhi had been actively involved in ‘village uplift programmes’.
5. Even urban educated Indians were very interested in village life because most of them retained some family links to villages.
6. Villages were places where most Indians lived.
Advantages of Participant Observation
1. Provides a rich detailed picture of life from the perspective of the ‘insider’ which is the greatest return on the substantial investment of time and effort that field work demands.
2. Allows for correction of initial impressions, which may be biased or mistaken.
3. Permits the researcher to track changes in the subject of interest, and also to see the impact of different situations or contexts.
Disadvantaged of Participant Observation
1. By its very nature, fieldwork involves long drawn out and intensive research usually by a single scholar working alone.
2. It can cover only a small part of the world.
3. We can never be sure whether what the researcher observed during the fieldwork is really very common in the larger community or exceptional.
4. We are never sure whether it is the voice of the anthropologist or that of the people being studied. It is always possible that the anthropologist is selecting what will be written down in his/her notes, and how it will be presented to the readers of his/her books or articles. Because there is no other version available to us except that of the anthropologist there is always the chance of bias or error.
5. This method is criticised for the one-sided relationship it is based on. The anthropologist asks the questions and presents the answers and speaks for'the people’.
What is dialogic format of participant observation?
This implies that people and respondents can be more directly involved. This involves translating the work of the scholar into the language of the community, and asking theiropinion of it, and recording their responses.
1. A survey is an attempt to provide an overview. It’s a comprehensive perspective on some subject based on information obtained from a carefully chosen representative set of people.
2. Such people are usually referred to as ‘respondents'— they respond to questions asked of them by the researchers.
3. Survey research is usually done by large teams consisting of those who plan and design the study and their associates and assistants. They are called investigators.
4. Survey questions can be asked through telephone conversations, during personal visits by the investigators. Responses may be sought in writing, to questionnaires or sent through post.
5. Internet and various other media are also used now to collect data.
6. It allows us to generalise results for a large population while actually studying a small proportion of this population.
7. It requires manageable investment of time, effort and resources.
Sampling theory to select a sample
1. This was a contribution of statistics.
2. The selection is done through two main principles.
3. The first principle is that all the relevant sub-groups in the population should be recognised. This is called stratification. The notion of stratification tells us that the representativeness of a sample depends on its being able to reflect the characteristics of the all the relevant strata in a given population. Which kinds of strata are considered relevant depends on the objectives of the research study.
4. The second principle is the actual unit should be based purely on chance. This is referred to as randomisation which depends on probability. After relevant strata in population are identified, the actual choosing of sample respondents should be a matter of chance. This can be ensured in various ways
b) Rolling of dice
c) Random numbers generated through the computer
5. The statistical properties of a scientifically selected sample ensure that the characteristics of the sample will closely resemble the characteristics of the population it is drawn from. There may be small differences, but the chance of such deviations occurring can be specified.This is known as margin of error or sampling error. It arises not due to any mistakes made by researchers but because we are using a small sample fora large population.
6. The unique advantage of the surveys is that it provides an aggregated picture, i.e., a picture based on a collectivity rather than on single individuals taken separately. Many social problems and issues become visible only at this aggregative level. They may not be identifiable at micro level.
Disadvantages of Survey
1. It is at the cost of depth of coverage.
2. Time spent on each respondent is limited. Thus, one may not get in- depth information.
3. Since the survey questionnaire is taken by a large number of investigators, it is difficult to ensure that complicated questions or those requiring appropriate prompting will be asked in the same way.
4. Differences in the way questions are asked or answers recorded could introduce errors.
5. Given that there is no long term relationship between the investigators and respondents, no familiarity or trust, questions that can be asked in a survey have to be of the kind that can be asked and answered between strangers. Questions of a personal or sensitive kind cannot be asked or of asked are likely to be answered safely ratherthan truthfully. These are sometime referred to as non-sampling errors.
6. In order to be successful, it must depend on tightly structured inflexible questions.
7. Its success depends on the nature of the interactions between investigators and respondents and especially the goodwill and cooperation of the latter.
1. The flexibility can make it vulnerable to changes of mood on the part of the respondent or to lapses of concentration on the part of the interviewer.
2. Thus, it becomes unstable