CLIENT STRUCTURE AND THE RESEARCH PROCESS*
Joel Smith, Francis M. Sim, and Robert C. Bealer
THIS paper is based upon experience in a large-scale three-year sociological investigation. The investigation had its inception in the spring of 1954 when representatives of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) approached members of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Michigan State University about evaluating alternative methodologies that might be used in studying the effects of the farm market-news system. Since this seemed to offer excellent opportunities to test certain propositions of interest to us concerning the structure and functioning of systems of mass communication, a problem of common interest was defined and a contract negotiated. The investigators were confident that their "pure" research interests could be realized in this applied setting.
While experience has shown that research ideals must be compromised in the course of an investigation, in this study departure plans often did not grow out of the research experience but arose from qualities of the clients, the investigators, and the relationship between them. While we strongly feel that an examination of the operation of these factors in this research context will be rewarding for the general student of the research process, much of what happened depended on the particular conditions encountered.
From the beginning of negotiations for the study both clients and investigators realized that their interests in the study differed but felt that they were mutually compatible. Differences in particular interests, however, did lead to problems. If the investigators had been interested in conducting a census rather than a structural-functional analysis or if the clients had been interested in experimental comparisons of research techniques rather than in frequencies of occurrence of certain events, in____________________