Race Relations Research draft Paper Description This research paper gives students a chance to explore an important topic related to race, incorporating course themes and original research. So you know, you are not required to actually conduct research for
this paper. The professor just wants us all to explore the kinds of methods you would use
to answer your question.The paper should include: A) An introduction where you set up the paper (provide context), and clearly outline your topic and/or question (1 page). B) A literature review of scholarship (books, articles, etc.) on your area of interest, and how your question or similar questions have been discussed in the literature. This will be the longest part of your essay (5 pages). C) A description of the type of research project you would potentially pursue to answer your question (this is a hypothetical exercise), and why you feel this is the best way to go about addressing your topic (1 page). D) A conclusion tying together all elements of the paper, and stating the contribution your research will make to the study of race and race relations in general (1 page).I have pasted below, my first page that i have started under outline. Please also include intersectionality. 8 pages all together double spaced. i also uploaded below a annual review example you can use. in addition, https://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/handle/1903/132…
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Research Methods a Case Example of Participant
Jessica Iacono1, Ann Brown2 and Clive Holtham2
Corus International Trading Limited, Schaumburg, USA
Cass Business School, London, UK
Abstract: This paper discusses the role of the researcher as a participant observer and reflective practitioner.
The paper aims to assess the benefits and limitations of participant observation, and offer guidance as to how to
manage the challenges inherent in this technique. The paper draws on the lead authors experience as a
participant observer when working on her doctoral thesis: Factors Affecting the Viability of Electronic
Marketplaces: an Empirical Investigation into International Steel Trading. It discusses the issues and concerns
resulting from participant observation and how these were dealt with in the case example. The empirical research
was a longitudinal study tracking the evolution of steel electronic commerce between December 1998 and the
present time. The events examined in this study were observed during the lead authors ten years at a large steel
producer/trading house. As a trader and a manager, the lead author was directly involved in the conduct of
business. The study represents the contribution of an industry practitioner and, as such, provides a unique insight
into a real-world setting.
Keywords: participant observation, qualitative research methods, qualitative data, longitudinal case work, steel
Qualitative methods, such as ethnography, action research, case study research, were developed in
the social sciences, and were deemed to be more appropriate to the study of social and cultural
phenomena than the quantitative methods of the physical sciences, such as survey methods,
laboratory experiments, mathematical modelling. The rationale for conducting qualitative analysis
stems from the observation that, given the human capacity to talk, the object of understanding a
phenomenon from the point of view of the actors is largely lost when textual data are quantified.
Participant observation has its roots in anthropological studies, where researchers would travel to
faraway places to study the customs and practices of less known societies. It involves participating in
a situation, while, at the same time, recording what is being observed. Hence, participant observation
has been associated with qualitative methods, as the data collected by this technique tend to be
predominantly qualitative. It is potentially rewarding but presents unique challenges to the researcher.
It offers the chance to obtain unique insights into the organization or social group. Challenges for the
researcher include obtaining access and agreeing his/her role within the organizational or social
This paper discusses the role of the researcher as a participant observer and reflective practitioner,
and elaborates on the epistemology of practice. The paper aims to assess the benefits and limitations
of participant observation, and offer guidance as to how to manage the challenges inherent in this
technique. The paper draws on the lead authors experience as a participant observer when working
on her doctoral thesis Factors Affecting the Viability of Electronic Marketplaces: an Empirical
Investigation into International Steel Trading.
The paper begins with a discussion of qualitative research methods. It establishes the main aspects
of qualitative research, and discusses the data collection techniques, which cannot be divorced from
the type of analysis being carried out. It then introduces participant observation and elaborates on the
role of the researcher as a reflective practitioner. It discusses issues and concerns resulting from
participant observation and how these were dealt with in the case example.
2. Qualitative research methods
A research method is a strategy of enquiry which moves from the underlying philosophical
assumption to the research design and data collection (Myers and Avison, 2002, p. 7). It is possible
©Academic Conferences Ltd
Reference this paper as:
Iacono, J. Brown, A. and Holtham, C. Research Methods a Case Example of Participant Observation. The
Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods Volume 7 Issue 1 2009, (pp.39 – 46), available online at
Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods Volume 7 Issue 1 2009 (39 – 46)
to identify two opposing philosophical traditions based upon distinct underlying ontological
assumptions about the nature of reality. Realism posits that reality exists independently of our
perception of it; idealism posits that what we call the external world is a creation of mind (Williams and
May, 1996; Orlikowski and Robey, 1991). These opposing philosophical perspectives are represented
in the social sciences by two traditions: positivism and phenomenology (Easterby-Smith et al., 1991).
Positivism posits that reality is external and objective; hence, the observer is independent of what is
being observed and objectivity is both possible and desirable. Phenomenology posits that reality is
not external and objective, but is a creation of individual minds; hence, reality is subjective. Inevitably,
many different variants are associated with both schools, particularly phenomenology (e.g.
hermeneutics, from Greek hermeneuein, to interpret). The sharp division between these two views
of the world seemed to dictate very different approaches to research design and hence data collection
and analysis methods.
It is possible to classify research methods as quantitative (based on numerical data) or qualitative
(based on verbal data). Quantitative methods are associated with the scientific approach to research,
while qualitative methods have been traditionally associated with phenomenology. Early social
researchers sought to apply the methods so successfully developed for the hard sciences to social
research and the results can be seen in the positivist philosophical tradition (Lee, 1989; Eisenhardt,
1989; Yin, 1994). The sharpest distinction between quantitative and qualitative work can be seen in
the approach taken at the analysis stage. In quantitative research a clear distinction can be made
between data collection and data analysis. In qualitative research collection, analysis, interpretation
and reporting are often carried on in parallel and the results of one activity can alter the direction of
the others. The differences between research based on qualitative data and that based on
quantitative data have seemed of great significance to many social researchers (Bryman, 2004).
However the type of data is no longer automatically considered as the determining factor in the
research design or research method. A mixed approach that combines both quantitative and
qualitative data and uses more than one research method is now fully accepted for IS research
(Cavaye, 1996; Myers, 1999; Myers, 2003).
2.1 Participant observation and qualitative research
A number of qualitative methods are open to the researcher, of which ethnography and case research
are the main methods that utilise participant observation for data collection.
Ethnographic research derives from social and cultural anthropology whereby a researcher is required
to spend considerable time in the field, and study the phenomenon within its social and cultural
context. Ethnographers try to immerse themselves in a setting and become part of the group being
investigated, in order to understand the meanings that actors put upon events or situations. The
prevailing data collection technique is participant observation (Myers, 1999). Thus, Jean Briggs
conducted her fieldwork among Canadian Eskimos; Liza Dalby among Kyoto geishas. Ethnographic
research is very time consuming. The main benefit is its depth, and therefore the contribution of rich
insight. One weakness is that it lacks breadth, as the focus is typically on one particular situation or
phenomenon. Hence, one common criticism is lack of generalisability. In fact, it is possible to
generalise from ethnography to theory (= theoretical generalisation). Also, the main data collection
technique, participant observation, has strengths and weaknesses, and these are discussed further in
The case study is a research strategy which focuses on understanding a phenomenon within its
natural setting. In the case study attention is paid to contextual conditions, regarded as highly relevant
to the phenomenon being investigated, whereas an experiment typically deliberately separates the
phenomenon from its context and focuses on a number of variables.
Case studies are the preferred research strategy when the phenomenon cannot be divorced from its
context, the focus is on contemporary events, and the experience of the actors is important. The case
study is the most common qualitative method used in information systems (Myers, 2003), and is
particularly suited to the study of information systems in organisations, when the focus is on
organisational rather than technical issues. The discipline of IS is characterised by continuous, often
revolutionary change and researchers often lag behind practitioners in promoting and/or evaluating
change. Researchers are often unable to provide guidance on how to manage the introduction of new
systems, and often find themselves investigating how practitioners implemented and managed
change, and developing theories from it. Case study research can be employed to capture and
©Academic Conferences Ltd
Jessica Iacono, Ann Brown and Clive Holtham
formalise the knowledge of practitioners, develop theories from practice, and move on to the testing
stage (Benbasat et al., 1987).
The case study relies on multiple sources of evidence and multiple data collection techniques. Yin
(1994) lists six major sources of evidence: documents, archival records, interviews, direct observation,
participant observation and physical artefacts.
In qualitative research, such as ethnographic and case research, data collection and analysis pose
particular concerns. Data collection can be time consuming and tedious, and can result in the
accumulation of large amounts of data. Subjectivity in the data collection and analysis process is
considered one of the main disadvantages of case research. Bias arises from two sources: the
influence of the researcher over participants behaviours and the impact of the researchers own
beliefs. The last part of the procedure – reporting – can be difficult, as the researcher needs to
establish the rigour of the process followed and the validity of the findings (Darke, Shanks &
Braodbent, 1998). Data collection and data analysis form an iterative process with the choice of
further data collection dependent on the results of previous analysis. Analysis is a subjective process
dependent on the researchers approach. Hence, the role of the researcher is key.
2.2 The Weberian tradition and the self
The expression value free sociology was created by Max Weber in an attempt to establish a less
naïve and more sophisticated methodology. Weber agrees with the positivists that a fact-value
distinction ought to be preserved, and social science should only concern itself with questions of facts,
while remaining ethically neutral on questions of values. Weber argues that an adequate description
of social practice requires us to understand the meaning of the practices to the agents involved,
which, in turn, also presupposes an understanding of values (which demands the implementation of
the verstehen sociology). Thus, Weber insists that the researcher must understand the values of
agents and consider both the subjective and objective dimensions of social life. It could be objected
that, in order to understand, one ought to decide between values. In fact, it has been observed that
Webers work itself evidences the struggle between the authors personal views and those of the
agents he should be investigating neutrally, in that it contains value judgments in terms of praise or
blame. Yet, it is precisely within this tension that the best social research is conducted.
Rosaldo (1989), writing in the context of the Weberian tradition, criticises the identification of
detachment with scientific objectivity and the myth of the observer as a tabula rasa. He argues that it
is rare, if not impossible, for a researcher to become truly detached. Rosaldo argues that Webers
advocated neutrality does not exclude the scientists passion and enthusiasm, and that the Weberian
perspective underestimates the analytical capability of feelings of anger, frustration, depression,
passion etc. and results in the elimination of other valid sources of knowledge. Rosaldo quotes the
example of Jean Briggs, who, in her fieldwork among Canadian Eskimos, utilised her feelings of
anger, frustration, solitude and depression to understand the mentality and values of her informants,
in contrast to hers. Rosaldo concludes that the researcher is a positioned subject, whose life
experiences both enable and inhibit particular kinds of insight (Rosaldo, p. 19). This argument
implicitly acknowledges the role of the researcher in the research process, and reintroduces the self in
Subsequent research challenged the idea of a social science in which the experience and values of
the researcher had to be obliterated. Opinions differ whether an acknowledgement of the self is all
that is required, or whether the self may legitimately be relied upon in the research process. Harris
(2001) argues that the self ought not only to be disclosed, but may legitimately be utilised as a source
of knowledge. The author discusses how her own life has been affected by non-profit and voluntary
organizations, which later led to her involvement in charitable work, and stimulated her academic
interest in the subject. Thus the academic work is influenced by the researchers family history, and
the researchers knowledge is enriched by her life experience and charitable work.
Re-placing the self in the research process does not mean that the research should be less rigorous.
Ultimately it is incumbent upon the researcher to keep the subjectivity in check and present and
analyse the evidence objectively (then again, what constitutes evidence depends on the philosophical
Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods Volume 7 Issue 1 2009 (39 – 46)
3. The participant observer in qualitative research
Since organisations can be viewed as societies with their own peculiar customs and practices,
participant observation has become increasingly popular in organisational research. Evered and Louis
(2001) identify two different paradigms of organisational research, and term the two approaches
inquiry from the outside and inquiry from the inside, whereby the former is characterised by the
researchers detachment from the organizational setting, and the latter by the personal involvement of
the investigator in the research process. Knowledge of an organisation can be acquired in two ways:
by examining data generated by the organisation e.g. company files, financials etc. (enquiry from the
outside) or by functioning within the organisation (enquiry from the inside) and being there, becoming
immersed in, and part of the phenomenon under study. The authors reflect upon their own personal
experience entering an unfamiliar organizational setting. They became aware that, despite their
training in the scientific method, they were adopting a different mode of enquiry to make sense of the
new organisation: It was a multisensory, holistic immersion (p. 387) whereby the authors were
noticing acutely. They did not test hypotheses, but relied on improvisation learned in practice.
Published academic research offered little guidance in understanding the new organizational setting,
whereas papers by industry practitioners appeared more meaningful and relevant. The authors
conclude that the knowledge acquired through inquiry from the inside is inherently more valid and
relevant to the organizational actors. Management research presents challenges of its own. Managers
are busy individuals, and are typically reluctant to allow access unless they can see some benefit to
the organisation. Hence, access for fieldwork may be difficult to obtain, and, if granted, it may be
subject to various conditions about confidentiality.
Sometimes participant observation arises from an ongoing working situation, as is the case when the
observer is an industry practitioner. Professional practice is a process of problem setting and problem
solving. Practising managers are called upon to manage problematic situations characterised by
indeterminacy, uniqueness and instability. Schon (1991, quoting Ackoff, 1979) appropriately terms
such situations messes. The best professionals are able to make sense of these messes, discern
patterns, identify deviations from a norm, recognise phenomena and adjust their performance. Such
processes may be intuitive, tacit, unconscious. The author terms this reflection-in-action. The art of
management is science in action, so that practising managers may become developers of
management science (Schon, 1991). The researcher in this position acquires an in-depth and firsthand insight into a real-world setting.
A major criticism levelled at participant observation is the potential lack of objectivity, as the
researcher is not an independent observer, but a participant, and the phenomenon being observed is
the subject of research. The notion of participant observer does presuppose a degree of emotional
detachment from the subject matter, the clear objective of the researcher being the conduct of the
research. American Liza Dalby moved to Japan and lived as a geisha among geishas to conduct the
fieldwork for her PhD thesis, and later recounted her experience in the field in the book Geisha
(Dalby, 2000). As a researcher, she faced a similar challenge, namely, how to reconcile her very
personal experience and views with the need for detachment traditionally expected of a researcher for
her work to be regarded as scientific.
Inevitably participant observation raises ethical dilemmas: the investigation should not be conducted
in a covert manner; informants should be informed of the nature and scope of the investigation. On
the other hand, participant observation carries with it the concern that the presence of the investigator
may influence the way informants behave. Informants may be suspicious of the researcher and
reluctant to participate or be eager to please; they may interject their own impressions and biases etc.
The personal relationship between researcher and informants may also influence the interaction (e.g.
the researcher may empathise with his/her informants and vice versa). This ought to be taken into
consideration when conducting the fieldwork. It is incumbent upon the researcher to build a
relationship based on trust, and collect, analyse and display the evidence objectively. Liza Dalby, the
only foreigner to ever become a geisha became quite famous in Japan during the fourteen months
devoted to the fieldwork: I cannot pretend that I was the invisible observer, seeing but not seen (p.
XV), she writes. In fact, she was interviewed almost as often as she interviewed and admitted that it
would be naïve of her to pretend that her presence did not influence the way informants behaved.
Although she lived as a geisha and participated in the daily routine of geisha life, she remained an
outsider (= she isnt a geisha, she is an anthropologist) and never completely blended in.
©Academic Conferences Ltd
Jessica Iacon …
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