This week we talked about the different ways that research can be conducted. The four ways are questionnaires, interview, observation, and participant-observation. There are advantages and disadvantages to each.
The questionnaire is quick, relatively efficient, and can reach a large number of people in a short amount of time. It is also the cheapest option that takes the least amount of manpower. The problem is that it is not in-depth and there is no way to gauge whether or not you are getting the truth.
The interview is the next level up. It requires more time, money, and manpower, but does yield more in-depth information. It also allows the anthropologist to “go with the flow” of the interview. If there is something that is particularly interesting, more emphasis can be placed on the question. It is also a tool to physically gauge the reaction of the interview and get a more honest response. During the interview, the researcher can stop interviews that they feel are not truthful. This is something that cannot be done on paper because one is not able to see the physical reactions. A flaw with interview, however, is that people sometimes think that they are being honest, but they are not being honest with themselves.
Observation also has its share of advantages and disadvantages. It is very time consuming, as the researcher has to spend many hours watching every move of the given culture. There are drawbacks to observations as well. If the party knows that they are being observed they tend to not act naturally until they get totally used to the observer being there. In the past, while observing children in daycare, there were one-way mirrors that allowed the researcher to see into the class, but the children were unaware. This is an ideal situation, but usually in the field, this scenario does not happen.
To get the most thorough idea of a given culture, participant-observation is used. In this research method, the researcher fully immerses themselves in the culture. They become a part of the culture. An example of this was given in the movie that we watched in class. The researcher wanted to gain more information on the cheese-maker culture. The researcher not only conducted interviews and took extensive field notes, but they also have to help make the cheese, so that they fully understand what it means to be a cheese maker. It takes a long time for the researcher to be fully accepted into a culture, and, therefore, there is a lot of time spent in the culture making relationships to gain trust.