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Term 1 Week 4

Observational research and ethical questions

Political scientists typically think of ethnography as a tool of observation used by anthropologists to produce "thick descriptions" of "natives" in "villages." This caricature inadequately characterizes the practices of anthropologists or the scope of social research. Indeed, ethnography, participant observation, or observational research are different terminologies for this standard ingredient of social science research. Yet, it is more than a simple process of joining a group, watching what goes on, making some notes, and writing it all up. In this class we will discuss when and how researchers shall get involved in the social life of those they study. We also talk about ethical issues while doing qualitative research. Does it matter that observation, especially participant-observation, requires relationships with the people we research, and therefore a potential impact on their actions?

Methodological readings Applied readings
  • [1] Bray, Z. (2008) Ethnographic Approaches, in: Della Porta, D. and M. Keating (eds.) (2008) Approaches and Methodologies in the Social Sciences: A Pluralist Perspective. Cambridge UP, Ch. 15 (pp. 296-315).
  • [2] Fenno, R (1986) Observation, Context, and Sequence in the Study of Politics, American Political Science Review 80(1): 3-15.
  • [3] Bulmer, M. (2008) The Ethics of Social Research, in: N. Gilbert (ed.) Researching Social Life. Sage (3rd edition), Ch. 8 (pp. 145-161).

[1] Book available as e-book through library. Simply copy-paste the title of the book into the article search function of the 'encore'-platform.

[2] Journal available as e-journal through library. Simply copy-paste the title of the article into the article search function of the 'encore'-platform.

[3] Book as hard copy available in library in its 2008 and 2001 edition (HM511.R47).

  • [1] Van Aelst, P. and S. Walgrave (2001) Who is that (wo)man in the street? From the normalisation of protest to the normalisation of the protester, European Journal of Political Research 39(4):461-486.
  • [2] Norris, P., S. Walgrave, and P. Van Aelst (2005) Who demonstrates? Antistate rebels, conventional participants, or everyone? Comparative Politics 37(2 ): 189-205.

[1] Journal available as e-journal through library. Simply copy-paste the title of the article into the article search function of the 'encore'-platform.

[2] Journal available as e-journal through library. Copy-paste the title of the journal into the article search function of the 'encore'-platform, look for the right year, then issue, then article.

 

Recommended reading

  • [1] Fielding, N. (2008) Ethnography, in: N. Gilbert (ed.) Researching Social Life. Sage (3rd edition), Ch. 14 (pp. 266-284).

[1] Book as hard copy available in library in its 2008 and 2001 edition (HM511.R47).