The film “Kitchen Stories” and the history of qualitative research

Kitchen Stories is a fun film about a market study conducted in Norway in the 40s.

Swedish efficiency researchers come to Norway for a study of Norwegian men, to optimize their use of their kitchen. Folke Nilsson (Tomas Norström) is assigned to study the habits of Isak Bjørvik (Joachim Calmeyer). By the rules of the research institute, Folke has to sit on an umpire’s chair in Isak’s kitchen and observe him from there, but never talk to him. Isak stops using his kitchen and observes Folke through a hole in the ceiling instead. However, the two lonely men slowly overcome the initial post-war Norwegian-Swede distrust and become friends. (Wikipedia)

It may also be seen as a traditional way of doing qualitative research and more specifically, non-participant observation. Such methodology would likely be replaced by video camera recording nowadays, I think.

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The Fraga Family: example of visual data and ethnography based research project

 

verkami_cbdb13f8e348fd519a636047edda0f98ABOUT THE PROJECT

When I got to New York, I briefly documented the lives of many Galician families there. At the same the time I was looking for a project to document more widely during the year.

I photographed life in the Bronx, street parties, the subway, and it was not until I visited the Fragas at least a couple of times that I realized that my big project was going to be about them.

The Fraga Family is a story about the world. It is a project on migration and adaptation to another country over decades.

When I entered the Fraga home, an apartment of about sixty square meters, I found three generations of three different nationalities living there.

Grandpa Carlos, a Galician who had emigrated to Cuba in 1925; his Cuban daughter, Maria; Maria’s husband and cousin at once, Pepe, Galician who had lived in France and Cuba as well; and the two sons of these, Richie and José, one hundred percent Americans.

I lived with The Fraga Family three days a week for eight months, shooting their prívate lives. I witnessed moments of their daily life and important events, such as when José Fraga, 27 and barely Spanish speaking, an important lawyer in a Manhattan Law Firm, could finally move out after paying off his law school loans.

This story now being exhibited belongs to the first part of a larger project that will be completed in the spring of 2014, photographing the Fragas 15 years later.

Have you heart of similar cases? Let us know!

 

Source and further info: http://www.verkami.com/projects/6370-the-fraga-family

How to do ethnography

Malinowski with natives, Trobriand Islands, 1918

Malinowski with natives, Trobriand Islands, 1918

This post aims to explain how to use observation or related methods such as ethnography in social research. Hence the post is divided in three sections. First one aims to answer what does this method mean and come from, second one, what does it make observation different from other methods as in-depth interview or focus group and last but not least what a researcher is supposed to observe in such studies.

1. What is the observation method and what does it come from?

Whenever your research question deals with people behavior an obvious form to understand it is just watch how they behave. This is essentially what observation and ethnography are all about, a systematically observation of people behavior.  Although there are differences between them (Atkinson and Hammersley, 1998) both observation and ethnography will be treated as equivalent techniques in this and following posts.

It is important to add that both are originally rooted into social science. It was a polish anthropologist, Bronisław Malinowski, who first applied it, at the beginning of XX century, what is considered the oldest qualitative method. By mean this method; he conducted several fieldworks in order to analyze patterns of exchange in aboriginal communities, mainly in Africa and Australia. It was also Chicago School of social research that first encouraged its students to study by observation the constantly changing social phenomena of Chicago in the 1920´s and 1930´s.

Its importance has considerably grown over the last decades as a way to understand buying process. Observing customers both in naturally occurring actions like in a shop, bar or at home is now a common method in market research industry. On the other hand, with the advent of Internet, such techniques as online ethnography (Martinez and Rodríguez, 2008) or nethnography (Kozinets, 2002), among other; are already an essential part of today’s market research. On top of that, emergence of new social media such as twitter or Facebook give way to a new way to understand purchase and consumption decision. Besides pursuing conventional advertising, consumers are using Facebook groups, blogs, chat rooms, email, twitters to share ideas, build community and contact fellow consumers who are seem as more objective information source. Actually, several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer´s decision journey”, traditional marketing communications just aren´t relevant, or such as an article in Harvard Business journal has recently suggested, “Marketing is dead” (2012) Although this assertion may be seen as controversial, the truth is that every researcher shouldn´t nowadays underestimate the importance of new social media to gather market information. Such as the sociologist Manuel Castells sustained, we don´t live in a virtual reality but in a real virtually. Finally, despite the distance in time between first studies on aboriginal communities and current online studies, as well as between the different varieties that have emerged throughout the time, the essence is still the same, understanding human existence by mean observing people.

2. What makes observation method different

The development of observation and ethnography may strongly depend on the variety applied. How far observation is revealed to those who are observed, how far researcher participates or how systematic the collection of data is, gives way to the different varieties to be applied. Regardless such differences that may be looked up in the references, this post aims to highlight the essentials of a good observation.

1. Case study design. One shop, one office, one street or restaurant; observation is commonly applied in a specific case, always giving more importance to the depth of analysis than to how representative this case is.

2. Location in place and time of everyday life (Flick, 2009)

3. Interpretation and understanding. Although the information might be systematically collected by a “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis et al, 2009), usually called structured observation, the truth is that it is commonly applied as a method to interpret rather than quantifying people behavior.

4. Besides the competencies of speaking and listening used in interviews, observing is another everyday skill that is relevant for qualitative studies. Almost all sense; seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling are required for a good observation.

5. Interest in human meaning and interaction. In social sciences we cannot hope to adequately explain the behavior of social actors unless we at least try to understand their meanings. Remember the meaning of DC Metro for passer-by during rush hour on the Washington post´s violinist experiment.

6. Flexible, opportunistic and open ended inquiries (Flick, 2009) are an essential part of observation, except for the varieties that don´t require the researcher participant where there is no interaction with actors and consequently no question is formulated (non-participant observation)

3. What to observe

Before moving on to the proper observation, researcher should have previously selected the setting (where and when) as well as the actions to be documented (e.g. buying process) and a carefully description of the field, concentrating on aspects relevant to research question. Subsequently, researcher or observers hired for such reason will start the fieldwork, i.e. the observation properly. Now the question is what to observe in the observation process? The dimensions to be observed may vary from more structured to less structured observations. However, according to Spradley, social situations generally may be described along nine dimensions for observational purposes.

1. Space: the physical place or places.

2. Actors: the people involved.

3. Activity: a set of related acts people do. Who originates actions? How often? Which consequences with? For whom such consequences are?.

4. Object: the physical things that are present.

5. Act: single actions that people do.

6. Event: a set of related activities that people carry out.

7. Time: the sequencing that takes place over time.

8. Goal: the things people are trying to accomplish.

9. Feeling: the emotions felt and expressed.

On the other hand the more structured observations normally use a so called “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis et al, 2009). What is it? It is a number of questions to be tested during the observation time. For instances, the bellow table shows the items tested by a group or observers in a study that aimed to measure a fastfoodchain service quality:

behaviour

Reference list

Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (1994). Ethnography and participant observation. Handbook of qualitative research, 1, 248-261. In Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Castells, Manuel (2012) Interview on BBC: “Viewpoint: Manuel Castells on the rise of alternative economic cultures” Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20027044

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Kozinets, R. V. (2002). The field behind the screen: using netnography for marketing research in online communities. Journal of marketing research, 61-72. In Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Lee, B. (2012). Marketing Is Dead. HBR Blog Network. Harvard Business.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. In Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative researchSage Publications Limited

Observation and ethnography: what to observe?

Before moving on to the proper observation, researcher should have prevously selected the setting (where and when) as well as the actions to be documented (e.g. buying process) and a carefully description of the field, concentrating on aspects relevant to research question. Subsequently, researcher or observers hired for such reason will start the fieldwork, i.e. the observation properly. Now the question is what to observe in the observation process? The dimensions to be observed may vary from more structured to less structured observations. However, according to Spradley, social situations generally may be described along nine dimensions for observational purposes.

1. Space: the physical place or places

2. Actors: the people involved

3. Activity: a set of related acts people do. Who originates actions? How often? With which consequences? For whom?

4. Object: the physical things that are present

5. Act: single actions that people do

6. Event: a set of related activities that people carry out

7. Time: the sequencing that takes place over time

8. Goal: the things people are trying to accomplish

9. Feeling: the emotions felt and expressed (1980, p.78)

On the other hand the more structured observations normally use a so called “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis, 2008). What is it? It is a number of questions to be tested during the observation time. Lewis et al (2008) provides with very illustrating example. The bellow table shows the items tested by a group or observers in a study that aimed to measure a fastfoodchain service quality:

behaviour

Reference

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. In Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

6 essentials of observational studies

The development of observation and ethnography may strongly depend on the variety applied. How far observation is revealed to those who are observed, how far researcher participates or how systematic the collection of data is, gives way to the different varieties to be applied. Regardless such differences that may be looked up in the references, this post aims to highlight the essentials of a good observation.

  1. Case study design. One shop, one office, one street or restaurant; observation is commonly applied in a specific case, always giving more importance to the depth of analysis than to how representative this case is.
  2. Location in place and time of everydaylife (Flick, 2009)
  3. Interpretation and understanding. Although the information might be systematically collected by a “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis et al), usually called structured observation, the truth is that it is commonly applied as a method to interpretate rather than quantifying pleople behaviour.
  4. Besides the competencies of speaking and listening used in interviews, observing is another everyday skill that is relevant for qualitative studies. Almost all sense; seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling are required for a good observation.
  5. Interest in human meaning and interaction. In social sciences we cannot hope to adequately explain the behaviour of social actors unless we at least try to understand their meanings (Delbridge and Kickpatrick) Remember the meaning of DC Metro for passer-by during rush hour on the Washington post´s violinist experiment.
  6. Flexible, oportunistic and open ended inquiries (Flick, 2009) are an essential part of observation, except for the varieties that don´t require the researcher participant where there is no interaction with actors and consequently no question is formulated (non-participant observation)

References

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

How to use observation method

This post aims to explain how to use observation or related methods such as ethnography in social research. Hence the post is divided in three sections. First one aims to answer what does this method mean and come from, second one, what does it make observation different from other methods as in-depth interview or focus group and last but not least what a researcher is supposed to observe in such studies.

1. What is the observation method and what does it come from?

Whenever your research question deals with people behavior an obvious form to understand it is just watch how they behave. This is essentially what observation and ethnography are all about, a systematically observation of people behavior.  Although there are differences between them (Atkinson and Hammersley, 1998) both observation and ethnography will be treated as equivalent techniques in this and following posts.

It is important to add that both are originally rooted into social science. It was a polish anthropologist, Bronisław Malinowski, who first applied it, at the beginning of XX century, what is considered the oldest qualitative method. By mean this method; he conducted several fieldworks in order to analyze patterns of exchange in aboriginal communities, mainly in Africa and Australia. It was also Chicago School of social research that first encouraged its students to study by observation the constantly changing social phenomena of Chicago in the 1920´s and 1930´s.280px-Bronisław_Malinowski_among_Trobriand_tribe_3

Its importance has considerably grown over the last decades as a way to understand buying process. Observing customers both in naturally occurring actions like in a shop, bar or at home is now a common method in market research industry. On the other hand, with the advent of Internet, such techniques as online ethnography (Martinez and Rodríguez, 2008) or nethnography (Kozinets, 2002), among other; are already an essential part of today’s market research. On top of that, emergence of new social media such as twitter or Facebook give way to a new way to understand purchase and consumption decision. Besides pursuing conventional advertising, consumers are using Facebook groups, blogs, chat rooms, email, twitters to share ideas, build community and contact fellow consumers who are seem as more objective information source. Actually, several studies have confirmed that in the “buyer´s decision journey”, traditional marketing communications just aren´t relevant, or such as an article in Harvard Business journal has recently suggested, “Marketing is dead” (2012) Although this assertion may be seen as controversial, the truth is that every researcher shouldn´t nowadays underestimate the importance of new social media to gather market information. Such as the sociologist Manuel Castells sustained, we don´t live in a virtual reality but in a real virtually. Finally, despite the distance in time between first studies on aboriginal communities and current online studies, as well as between the different varieties that have emerged throughout the time, the essence is still the same, understanding human existence by mean observing people.

2. What makes observation method different

The development of observation and ethnography may strongly depend on the variety applied. How far observation is revealed to those who are observed, how far researcher participates or how systematic the collection of data is, gives way to the different varieties to be applied. Regardless such differences that may be looked up in the references, this post aims to highlight the essentials of a good observation.

  1. Case study design. One shop, one office, one street or restaurant; observation is commonly applied in a specific case, always giving more importance to the depth of analysis than to how representative this case is.
  2. Location in place and time of everyday life (Flick, 2009)
  3. Interpretation and understanding. Although the information might be systematically collected by a “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis et al, 2009), usually called structured observation, the truth is that it is commonly applied as a method to interpret rather than quantifying people behavior.
  4. Besides the competencies of speaking and listening used in interviews, observing is another everyday skill that is relevant for qualitative studies. Almost all sense; seeing, hearing, feeling and smelling are required for a good observation.
  5. Interest in human meaning and interaction. In social sciences we cannot hope to adequately explain the behavior of social actors unless we at least try to understand their meanings. Remember the meaning of DC Metro for passer-by during rush hour on the Washington post´s violinist experiment.
  6. Flexible, opportunistic and open ended inquiries (Flick, 2009) are an essential part of observation, except for the varieties that don´t require the researcher participant where there is no interaction with actors and consequently no question is formulated (non-participant observation)

3. What to observe

Before moving on to the proper observation, researcher should have previously selected the setting (where and when) as well as the actions to be documented (e.g. buying process) and a carefully description of the field, concentrating on aspects relevant to research question. Subsequently, researcher or observers hired for such reason will start the fieldwork, i.e. the observation properly. Now the question is what to observe in the observation process? The dimensions to be observed may vary from more structured to less structured observations. However, according to Spradley, social situations generally may be described along nine dimensions for observational purposes.

1. Space: the physical place or places.

2. Actors: the people involved.

3. Activity: a set of related acts people do. Who originates actions? How often? Which consequences with? For whom such consequences are?.

4. Object: the physical things that are present.

5. Act: single actions that people do.

6. Event: a set of related activities that people carry out.

7. Time: the sequencing that takes place over time.

8. Goal: the things people are trying to accomplish.

9. Feeling: the emotions felt and expressed.

On the other hand the more structured observations normally use a so called “off-the-shelf” coding schedule (Lewis et al, 2009). What is it? It is a number of questions to be tested during the observation time. For instances, the bellow table shows the items tested by a group or observers in a study that aimed to measure a fastfoodchain service quality:

behaviour

Reference list

Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (1994). Ethnography and participant observation. Handbook of qualitative research, 1, 248-261. In Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Castells, Manuel (2012) Interview on BBC: “Viewpoint: Manuel Castells on the rise of alternative economic cultures” Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20027044

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited

Kozinets, R. V. (2002). The field behind the screen: using netnography for marketing research in online communities. Journal of marketing research, 61-72. In Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Lee, B. (2012). Marketing Is Dead. HBR Blog Network. Harvard Business.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. In Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative researchSage Publications Limited

Qualitative methods for market research. The subject.

After providing in the previous two posts a brief definition of both terms “qualitative method” and “market research“, we are in a position to clarify what Qualitative methods of market research subject is about (see about for further details on this blog). The main objective of the subject is learning how to collect text (and images) information systematically in order to understand the relation between buyers and sellers of a specific product or service that occurs or might occur in the future in a part of the worldMore specifically, the subject will aim the managing of the below qualitative research techniques (as well as its respective emerging online variant)

  1. In-depth Interviews
  2. Narratives
  3. Focus groups
  4. Verbal data
  5. Participant observation and ethnography
  6. Visual data: photography, film and video

Furthermore, a number of secondary objectives must be pointed out. Apart from the collection of information itself, it is necessary to emphasize the importance of the research process as a whole. In other words, you as researcher may manage the above techniques but it would be pointless if you are not aware of a number of steps that all researchers must bear in mind when developing a research project and that forms what is called “research process”. This process, that will be addressed in future posts, goes from the mere formulation of the research question to the final presentation of the results.

Finally, ethics of research, origin and history of market research as well a brief theoretical approaches overview complement the secondary objectives of this subject.

Below you can find the main references taken to the production of the material for the subject´s content.

Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. Sage Publications Limited.

Gummesson, E. (1999). Qualitative methods in management research. Sage Publications, Incorporated.

Ibáñez, J. (1979). Más allá de la sociología: El Grupo de Discusión: teoría y crítica. Siglo XXI de España Editores.

Lewis, Philip, Mark NK Saunders, and Adrian Thornhill. Research methods for business students. Pearson, 2009.

Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.

Mella, O. (1998). Naturaleza y orientaciones teórico-metodológicas de la investigación cualitativa. Santiago: CIDE, 51.

Silverman, D. (2011). Interpreting qualitative data. Sage Publications Limited.