Human Organization Research: Field Relations and Techniques

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

FIELD RESEARCH TECHNIQUES: INTRODUCTION

DURING the past twenty years any comprehensive presentation and discussion of research techniques in the social sciences has become an increasingly formidable undertaking. Not only have the number and diversity of such techniques increased rapidly, but many have been refined and developed to the extent that highly specialized training and knowledge are required to utilize them.

In one sense, this rapid development may represent a "curse of abundance." The very wealth of possibilities open to a researcher in a given situation may be frustrating and unsettling as well as facilitative. Unless he is familiar with and "at home" in a wide variety of techniques, he may well prove inadequate for the task of selecting and applying the most appropriate and powerful research tools. It would seem that the well- prepared research scientist today must possess or have access to such varied talents as a working knowledge of statistics and experimental design, skill in interpersonal relations as a basis for interviewing, multilingual facility, administrative ability, etc. Since these capabilities are infrequently combined in a single individual, we usually find several persons supplying one or more competencies to fill out the "ideal type." Probably this division of labor is one of the major reasons why the trend toward interdisciplinary and multiple research teams has grown so rapidly, as documented in Part I of this volume.

The pressure, then, upon the research person to be knowing and selective is constantly mounting. There has been no dearth of published material1 to aid in the structuring and planning of research activity, and most methodology courses utilize this type of material as a basis for classroom work. The didactic approach has often been labeled the "cookbook" style, inasmuch as it provides recipes and guides for achieving certain results. Of course, the student may supplement these verbal instructions with real or "dry-run" research experiences, but the latter

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1
See, for example, William J. Goode and Paul K. Hatt ( 1952), Mildred Parten ( 1950), and Marie Jahoda, Morton Deutsch, and Stuart W. Cook ( 1951).

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