FIELD WORK RECIPROCITIES IN STUDYING A SOCIAL MOVEMENT*
Joseph R. Gusfield
A CENTRAL question in understanding field-work data is that of motivation. Why do people talk to the investigator? Is there any relationship between their motivations and their responses? Since it is an interactive experience, the motivations of the field worker, his purposes and perceptual categories, are also of importance.
A great deal of understanding of the field-work process can be gained by conceiving of it as frequently involving a reciprocal exchange between two persons -- a research worker who wants to get data, and a respondent who has certain gratifications as his aim. Both participate in a social act governed by a normative structure that implies rules of behavior. The key question in this analysis is: What is each giving and what is each getting in return?1
This paper is a report of some experiences in interviewing members of a social movement -- the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The interviews were part of the data used in a study of the WCTU which formed the author's Ph.D. dissertation.2 These experiences will shed some light on the nature of the interaction between interviewer and interviewee. The point made here is that the interview conferred certain rewards on both parties involved. A definite social relationship was formed and governed by virtue of functions useful to both members. Several such functions will be discussed in this article.
The role used by the field worker to gain entrance into his subject area has a strong bearing on data collected later. Who you are, in terms____________________