Discussion Questions

  1. You read in this chapter the statement by Maurice Punch (1994) that “the crux of the matter is that some deception, passive or active, enables you to get at data not obtainable by other means” (p. 91). What aspects of the social world would be difficult for participant observers to study without being covert? Are there any situations that would require the use of covert observation to gain access? What might you do as a participant observer to lessen access problems while still acknowledging your role as a researcher?
  2. Review the experiments and surveys described in previous chapters. Pick one, and propose a field research design that would focus on the same research question but with participant observation techniques in a local setting. Propose the role that you would play in the setting, along the participant observation continuum, and explain why you would favor this role. Describe the stages of your field research study, including your plans for entering the field, developing and maintaining relationships, sampling, and recording and analyzing data. Then, discuss what you would expect your study to add to the findings resulting from the study described in the book.
  3. Intensive interviews are the core of many qualitative research designs. How do they differ from the structured survey procedures that you studied in Chapter 8? What are their advantages and disadvantages over standardized interviewing? How does intensive interviewing differ from the qualitative method of participant observation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two methods?
  4. Research on disasters poses a number of methodological challenges. In what ways are qualitative methods suited to disaster research? What particular qualitative methods would you have emphasized if you had been able to design research in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? What unique challenges would you have confronted because of the nature of the disaster?