FIELD work in the social sciences differs from that in many other fields in the degree to which the behavior of the scientist himself affects the outcome of the study. Laboratory scientists must exercise great care, but the material with which they deal is in great part inanimate or at least nonhuman.1 The influence on the field situation exercised by the observer of human behavior becomes a central part of his research problem. The social science field worker's problems differ from those of his natural science colleague in that he must make himself meaningful to people rather than merely try to obscure his presence. Early field workers in anthropology tried to emphasize the importance of observing and not disturbing the social behaviors that were the subject of study. As our sophistication has grown, we now increasingly realize that field workers are individuals who cannot avoid playing a role in the field situation. The question is not how to avoid affecting the behavior of the people being studied but how to control and judge the quantity and quality of that effect. The question of research relations, in short, is just as much a part of field technique as that of constructing a questionnaire, collecting potsherds, or making a map.
This subject has been of increasing concern in the literature. To cite but a few instances, Floyd Mann and Ronald Lippitt edited a journal issue2 in 1952 devoted to the subject; Robert L. Kahn and Charles F. Cannell ( 1957, pp. 3-105) devote a quarter of the text portion of their 1957 volume on interviewing to the subject; and Margaret Luszki ( 1958), whose earlier article is contained in the present volume (2),* has prepared a study of certain aspects of the problem that should be required reading for anyone embarking on large-scale interdisciplinary efforts. The field____________________
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Human Organization Research:Field Relations and Techniques. Contributors: Richard N. Adams - Editor, Jack J. Preiss - Editor. Publisher: Dorsey Press. Place of publication: Homewood, IL. Publication year: 1960. Page number: 3.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.