THE RESEARCHER'S ROLE: A CASE STUDY*
Robert K. Bain
DURING the fall and winter of 1948-49, the writer made a study of a laundry plant located in a Southern town. The purpose of the research was to test and further develop the use of a method invented by Delbert C. Miller for analyzing and rating the social skills required by jobs.1
The study or research designed to accomplish this purpose consisted of several phases: (1) a general descriptive study of the social organization of the plant; (2) a rating of the social skills required by the jobs in the plant, following Miller's method; (3) a sociometric study of the interpersonal choices among the workers; and (4) an observational recording of certain time aspects of the interactions between employees, using a simplified adaptation of the Interaction Chronograph method of Eliot D. Chapple.
This article will not be concerned with the research results obtained but will attempt to treat certain aspects of the relations between the researcher and those whom he studied to form a case study of the role of the researcher. The value of this to the reader will probably be increased in direct relation to the reader's own field-research experience. Undoubtedly many of the situations reported here are unique, but, by comparing them with those in his own experience, perhaps the reader may gain a fuller understanding of effective roles for the field researcher.
This case study will be presented as an informal, chronological account of the writer's research experiences in the laundry plant and therefore will use the first person throughout.
First, I must give a brief description of the organization and personnel of the laundry plant in question. The role of a researcher is determined in part by the general age and sex roles of the society of which he is a part. To understand my role in the plant, we must know something about the people in the plant as well as about myself.
The XYZ Laundry Plant is owned and operated by the state university____________________