Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

By Richard N. Adams; Jack J. Preiss | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
PROBLEMS OF LARGE-SCALE ANTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH*

Edward E. LeClair, Jr.

ONE OF the important trends in social science research since the war has been the increase of research projects in which considerable numbers of people, often from several disciplines, work on a joint problem. Such a trend raises new issues of research technique and of methodology. For those engaged in planning large-scale projects, technical issues are paramount: how best to employ the potential resources of large-scale research, while avoiding or minimizing the operational problems. In addition, there are methodological and strategic questions: Are large-scale social research projects usually fruitful, or would it be better to try to halt or reverse the postwar trend?

Firm and final answers to these questions are not yet available. The best that may be expected, on the technical side, is a growing body of experience, perhaps no more than partially codified. Out of this experience will grow a kind of collective answer to the methodological issues, resulting in general acceptance of large-scale projects in the spectrum of social science research.

This discussion, utilizing one large-scale anthropological research project, is an attempt to codify a particular body of experience and to offer some insight into the methodological and strategic issues.1

____________________
*
An original contribution, prepared for this volume.
1
This discussion is based on my experience as Project Field Director of the Cornell University India Project, a position I held from June, 1955, to July, 1956. I am indebted to Morris E. Opler, director of the Cornell University India Program, for giving me the opportunity to have this experience. Both he and Allan R. Holmberg made valuable suggestions concerning an earlier draft of this paper. I owe thanks to the many people, including staff colleagues and others, with whom I discussed the problems of large-scale research, both in the abstract and in an effort to solve practical problems as they arose. I am especially indebted to John T. Hitchcock, my predecessor as project field director, whose successful establishment of the project as a going concern in the field and whose advice and counsel made my own job much easier than I had any right to expect. Needless to say, the opinions expressed in this paper are my own and should not reflect on anyone else.

-28-

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