Assignment 2: Field Observation
Purpose: The purpose of this two-step exercise is for you to conduct inductive and deductive research using qualitative methods.
Note: it is important that you conduct the observations as two distinct events during this class; ‘recalling’ past observations is not the same as purposefully observing your surroundings from a sociological perspective, and applying two different types of reasoning to one observation will not be ‘truthful’ or successful.
The purpose of this exercise if for you to observe one social setting or social artifact to begin to detect patterns in human behavior – observance of norms and potentially behaviors that deviate from the norm. This week’s exercise includes two parts. First, without any prep work, you will need to go to one public place (or conduct content analysis with your social artifact) and observe the people/artifact for 25 minutes. Social Setting: Note people’s behavior, their demeanor, their reactions/interactions to/with each other. Social artifact: from second to second (for TV), or page to page (for print), Note themes, sounds (i.. music), texture of page (i.e. ads in magazine), etc. Second, you will develop a research design with research problem, hypothesis and operational definitions for variables; then you will conduct another 25 minutes of observations.
1) Choose whether or not you will be conducting non-participant observation in a social setting, or content analysis of a social artifact
a. Social setting: this should be a public place such as a park, mall, restaurant, etc.
b. Social artifact: this may be ads in a particular magazine; one television show, a time-block of commercials, etc.
2) For your inductive approach, you will simply choose a time and location/artifact for where you are going to conduct your observations
a. Social Setting: Go to the specified location and proceed with your observations.
i. You must be a keen social observer; a ‘peeping Tom’ in the sociological sense. Take handwritten (recommended) and/or mental notes of:
1. details about your chosen location (time of day, lighting, furniture, plants, sounds, temperature, smell, vibe/energy, etc)
2. the people around you, not only their behavior but general information about their sociodemographic characteristics (age, race/ethnicity, gender, SES, etc);
3. your thoughts and feelings while making observations
- Social Artifact: At a specified time (i.e. when a particular show is), carefully observe your social artifact
i. Content analysis provides a sustained, systematic way to observe and measure the portrayal of that reality, as opposed to the quick, impressionistic way that we normally read consume media. Take handwritten notes of:
1. Details about the setting in the images you see (lighting, furniture, background, vibe/energy portrayed); if audio-visual (note sounds such as pitch of voice, music, etc)
2. Note details about the people portrayed, not only their behavior but general information about their sociodemographic characteristics (age, race/ethnicity, gender, SES, sexuality);
4) When you have returned from you observation, type up your notes. Review your notes for patterns in behavior, socio-demographic characteristics, etc.
5) Write-up your observations using ‘thick description’ of the location (i.e. building you were in (what is the architecture like), descriptions of people there (in terms of socio-demographic characteristics: age, race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status), sounds, smells, temperature, time of day and week, etc);
6) Analyze trends you identified in your observations/content analysis. What is a possible sociological/theoretical explanation for the trends you observed? This is best done by using sources to provide credibility to your analyses.
7) Based on your initial observations and written analyses, develop a specific research problem/question to be further investigated (i.e. the variation in behavior of males versus females when entering a store with a glass store front)
8) Identify the key variables you are going to be investigating, and develop an operational definition for each of them (this should include at least two variables, but not more than four). Your operational definitions will help to provide parameters for how record variations in your observations.
9) Write a hypothesis for what you expect to observe in your second round of observations.
10) Repeat observations/content analysis
a. Social Setting – this should be done at the same social setting at approximately the same time of day (if you can do this one week later on the same day, it would be great!)
b. Social Artifact – this should be done at the same time (if commercial block), or with the same show, or with a different issue of the same magazine , etc.
11) When you have returned from you observation, type up your notes. Review your notes for patterns in behavior, socio-demographic characteristics, etc. and how they corresponded with your expectations/hypothesis
12) Describe observations using ‘thick description’ of the location (i.e. building you were in (what is the architecture like), descriptions of people there (in terms of socio-demographic characteristics: age, race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status), sounds, smells, temperature, time of day and week, etc);
13) Analyze your observations in terms of how they supported/did not support your hypothesis.
14) What is a possible sociological/theoretical explanation for the trends you observed? This is best done by using sources to provide credibility to your analyses.
15) Discuss the differences between your inductive observations and your deductive observations. How did the way you were observing change? How did what you observed change?
16) Briefly describe your thoughts/feelings in the two steps. Did you prefer one approach to the other? Why/why not?
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