Author Archives: courtenaytelford

Research Ethics

I liked how today’s guest speaker discussed the historical perspective of research ethics. It showed why showed the importance of why it is necessary to have such standards in research. It provides protection to the researcher but more importantly the participant. Some studies that are conducted involve very controversial issues that can be very sensitive to the individual, which is why it is important to have ethical guidelines that researchers should follow in order to not exploit the vulnerable individual. As discussed in some of the lectures and readings this term was the controversy of conducting online and offline research has been debated about whether researchers should hold the same standards and merit for the digital community as in the non-digital one. It was refreshing to hear that online research should follow the same ethical standards as offline ones. I feel that ethics should be in all research studies despite them being online. All research conducted should be accountable and lawfully done. The idea that anything on the Internet is fair game or “anything goes” because it is all public disregards the ethic issues involved in research. Unless one is just observing and not interacting with then consent on the participant’s part is necessary. According to the University of Toronto Guidelines and Practices Manual for Research Involving Human Subjects, research participants who choose to participate in a survey have the same rights as any participant who signed a consent form so they are enabled to withdraw at any time. Based on Section 2A of the Tri-Council Policy Statement, a researcher that conducts a study involving human subjects must be consensual, voluntary, and informed throughout the process. Throughout the study the research subjects are entitled to respect and autonomy, which is seen through the dialogue, information sharing, and general process that the subjects chosen to participate in. I found the ethics lecture to be very insightful and useful for how to go about research in the future, as well as the final assignment.


Offline and Online Data

Offline and online data is important for understanding Internet use and online participation. Not every research project combines virtual methodology with non-digital methods, as it is oriented to specific research questions. Originally data used to be just one thing and there was no differentiation until the creation of the Internet. In regards to analysing and interpreting the data collected by both methods it can be hard to differentiate them. Orgad discusses that a distinction needs to be made between the two as it is being analyzed and interpreted. When one is discussing the data do they have to distinguish that this portion was from one method or the other or can they lump it together and say that these two methods was used to gather this data? Both online and offline data is highly beneficial for studies but it is interesting how Orgad says that there is a tendency to imply that online data is not as authentic as offline. If online data is not authentic then it leads to the question of credibility. It the data the researcher gathers online reliable? A researcher cannot control the virtual environment in the same manner than one can a physical and controlled environment. People have a tendency of showing or acting a specific way online but in the non-virtual environment they are completely different.

Case Studies

I find it interesting how Miles stated that case studies are not rational and therefore they are less scientific. Despite this view Yin points out that case studies can be conducted by either qualitative or quantitative methods. Yet, mixed-methods have been used in case studies, which yields positive results. If case studies are thought to be so unscientific then why are researchers using them? What could they possibly offer the field that the so-call scientific methods cannot? This reminds me of something Luker said about how canonical social scientists do not like methods that are unscientific in nature, which is why they do not study the phenomenon but rather the population being sampled.

Case studies can be explanatory, descriptive, and exploratory. It is safe to assume that based on this idea of what case studies are is why some researchers consider them to be unscientific. When one conducts several case studies he or she is looking for patterns amongst them to see if they have anything in common, which enables a well founded explanation for why or why not things seem to be this way. Case studies can be conducted using participation observation or ethnology but it can also use other methods to collect and analyze the data. They are beneficial for collecting data that requires open-ended questions that is limited to a particular research intent.

I like how Yin uses a detective analogy as a comparison to how a researcher would conduct a case study. Based on the data collected the researcher may have to adjust the theory or framework of the case study. The research tailors his or her decisions based on the relevancy of the data. In order to do so the researcher needs to take good notes and after the interview or observation is done he or she should quickly write down everything that took place to the best of his or her memory or else he or she will forget later down the road. This helps when one is completing the final research product, especially if it is several months after the data was collected.

Ethnography: A Checklist

Ethnography, according to Shaffir, is the a descriptive science that emphasizes the observation and description of a group’s behaviour in order to understand their culture. But Luker argues that it should be the practices of the group being studied rather than the culture, which makes for the salsa-dancing methods. Based on Luker observation is done in order to build theory. According to Luker ethnography research should be about generating theory rather than testing them, as most researchers do.

Ethnography is good for observing the subjects in his or her natural environment, which leads to data being collected under different conditions than if the subject was taken out of his or her home environment. It perceives the normal habits in a familiar environment to the subject. The researcher is able to observe not just the subject’s behaviour but also the context or surrounding of his or her environment. For example if a researcher was interested in cookbooks they would go to the subjects home and observe how the cookbooks are placed and what kinds the subject owns.

The problems with ethnography pertain to how difficult it can be to gain the data and as Shaffir states researchers normally omit some of his or her methods used for gathering data when writing reports on how he or she conducted the research. I found this to be interesting because of how it was discussed in class and through the readings of the importance of writing how you conducted the research project so that other researchers may observe what was done and apply the methods to future research. There is no simple way of conducting ethnography because it depends on the environment and the research has to adapt his or her research model based on the problem and setting at hand.

I found Stebbins article be helpful in what one should and should not do in regards to ethnography. I think these are really good tips for anyone who plans on conducting ethnography as part of his or her research methods. According to Stebbins one must first gain the trust of the group being studied and this must be done early on in order to prevent the subjects from feeling threatened by the researcher’s presence. Researchers often experience problems in gaining entry to the group but are able to maintain his or her scientifically distance. A researcher should not act like an expert but should have some knowledge that is sufficient. The researcher should be genuinely interested in the group’s way of life so it should not be faked. Stebbins stated that the subjects are willing to voluntary teach the researcher about his or her way of life as long as it does not reach unpleasantries. A research can ask about information already known to him or he in order to maintain an impression among the subjects. A research should participate in the group’s affairs but should refrain from going native- joining the group. This will allow the research to learn something valuable by participating but it should be limited due to dangers from getting overly involved and abandoning the research project. A research can fulfill the role of a helper but the problem is it being time consuming as the research project is limited. A researcher will learn more about the settings being observed by being socialized into it, which allows for them to provide different kinds of help based on the knowledge gained but as Stebbins notes this can sometimes be less technical and more social in nature.

Thoughts Concerning Calories and Peer Review

Since this week’s lecture I have been thinking a lot about the calorie study done that compared Starbucks stores in New York with Boston and Philadelphia. I found it interesting how by posting the calories in the products the companies revenues increased but it did not change what a person ordered for drinks. I think this study is interesting based on its relevancy to natural experiments because it shows the before and it will be tide into the the impact of future studies that focus on health concerns in the U.S. like obesity. Health conscious people will most likely change their eating habits based on the calories that are posted but not everyone is able to understand the calories in the way the medical professionals or nutritionists do.

In regards to peer review I think that it is an important part of the scholarly world that helps to make for a better and high quality works. I feel that anonymous peer reviewing is a more efficient way of conducting it as it allows for greater autonomy, which enables the reviewer to be critical in analysing the paper without being greatly biased by knowing the person’s identity. I have done peer review in my fourth year of undergrad but it was not anonymous as everyone in my fourth year history seminar class had to review everyone’s papers and discuss them in class. We all had to be critical in our analysis by stating what could be improved and what was good. I found this process to be intimidating because it was the first time I had to do this and after discussing peer review in this class I think my experience would have been better if it was anonymous.

Reflection on the SSHRC assignment

At first I found the SSHRC assignment to be hard but that was mainly because we had not discussed the various other forms of conducting research. I am glad that it was discussed in class how other people were having similar problems and read ahead, which was what I had to do in order to fully determine which methods I planned on using. For social science methods I prefer questionnaires and interviews, as I have some experience with them. I liked how Knight discussed how questionnaires should be used when large samples are needed to answer research questions pertaining to large groups. My research question for SSHRC focused on the Eastern European immigrant community in Ontario and their interaction with the public libraries. I want to focus on the resources and services that are made available to them in terms of collections and programs that help them preserve their culture while helping them to integrate into Canadian society.

Personally, I have some experience with conducting research through online survey for the Donald G. Ivey Library in the format of a questionnaire and processing the data collected into charts and spreadsheets. The purpose of the survey was to evaluate how well the library pertained to the needs of the students and the quantity of the data was very large. Also I thought the questionnaire exercise near the end of class was very useful. It forced us to apply the knowledge we learned through the readings and in class to determine what a good questionnaire was and how to avoid making it problematic for the person answering it.

Face-to-Face Research Methods

According to Knight a good research is a person who uses several methods appropriately and accurately for the kind of research that he or she is conducting. A researcher should be able to build trust with the participants in order to have a better understanding and bring embedded things into his or her work. Interviews are best conducted when the interviewer is not sticking to a ridge script that can hinder the possibility of being able to change the questions accordingly to ensure good results that are meaningful instead of a dead end that needs to be rethought out. In the course of a conversation a person is able to shape it in the ways that they want by implying things and steering the other person through a series of topics or questions to acquire a variety of data but throughout the entire discuss the topic shifts, allowing for a new perspective or understanding of the subject that the research intended to analyze.

I find it interesting how the natural sciences perceive the face-to-face research to be contaminated from subjectivity or in other words human interference with the subject being analyzed or tested. This kind of research may be needed but it is supposed to be tainted, which suggests that these methods are biased from a natural science perspective. Yet, according to Knight this research in other fields is necessary because the research is the main research instrument and the inquiry requires subjectivity. If one thinks about it is not all research a bit biased in some form because of the desired outcome or the hypothesis that the researcher hopes that his or her research will result in?

Face-to-face methods may have it disadvantages but based on Knight it seems to have a lot of positive advantages that are beneficial for the social sciences. If one wants to do the mixed methods of qualitative and quantitative or either one that Luker discussed then would not these various forms of face-to-face methods help to make sense of the data collected as it would be easier depending on what type one wanted to use. These methods allow for the researcher to change his or her direction throughout the study by rephrasing questions if the interviewee does not understand what is being asked of him or her. It also allows for new insights to stem from the results that may not appear in the distance methods. The distance methods omit the human aspect of the research and focus more on the results that follow a script instead of allowing room to improvise so that it yields positive results.

I like how Knight talks about the different kinds of face-to-face methods and states their pros and cons so we may see what will probably work best for the type of research we are planning to conduct, as well as, how we might go about it. Knight does not say which method is better than the other but his insights allow for inexperienced researchers to better understand the various possibilities that are available for conducting research instead of just sticking to a single method and using it in the wrong context.