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The topic is: The effect dementia has on Family members

Propose in 1-2 pages a qualitative research project on a topic that you would like to investigate using participant observation. Usually, such a design would be based on a review of existing literature. We don’t have the time for that, so base your topic on ideas you’ve covered previously in a sociology class.

NOTE: For your observational research, you cannot select sites that will expose your participants or yourselves to unnecessary risk.

The proposal should include at a minimum:

  • a paragraph explaining your topic, its sociological relevance, and the research question
  • two paragraphs on sampling/site selection (which site? why that site? which role will you take? how will you gain access to it?)
  • a paragraph reflecting on your relationship and if and/or how your presence may or may not impact the space and your observations

You will eventually have to conduct 45 minutes of observation. This time can be broken up in two ways—you can either do 1 45-minute observation of a single setting, or break it up into observation of about 25 minutes in two different settings. If you choose to conduct observations in 2 different settings, you should provide a rationale for this comparison.

Observation Project: Step 1

SOCY 3119

Qualitative Research Methods

Online

Observation Project, Step 1

Propose in 1-2 pages a qualitative research project on a topic that you would like to investigate using participant observation.

Keep in mind this is a brief assignment, no more than two pages.

Choose a site that is interesting to you and reveals something to us about the social world and is sociologically relevant.

Sociological relevance can be operationalized in this project by looking at gender dynamics, racial dynamics, family formation and experiences, health experiences, power relationships (this is just a short list). Sociology is broad!

Observation Project, Step 1

The proposal should include at a minimum:

a paragraph explaining your topic, its sociological relevance, and the research question

two paragraphs on sampling/site selection (which site? why that site? which role will you take? how will you gain access to it?)

a paragraph reflecting on your relationship and if and/or how your presence may or may not impact the space and your observations

–I need to be able to read enough to give you feedback about the appropriateness of your sight for observation and its sociological relevance.

Observation Project, Step 1

NOTE: For your observational research, you cannot select sites that will expose your participants or yourselves to unnecessary risk.

I also discourage observation of any group that cannot give consent freely, this includes:

Children in a classroom setting (they can assent, but you need their parents to give you consent and that would be too much work for this project).

People with any kind of developmental disability

People in prison, etc.

Note: In general, including these groups in longer research studies is crucial for understanding the full human experience, but for a short-term class assignment like this, it presents ethical challenges.

So what are some topics that students have proposed in the past?

One set of topics that have been successful include those that focus on sites that are:

Public places where people gather and consent may not be needed.

Observing the dynamics of those places.

Another set of topics that have been successful include those that focus on sites that are:

Sites where you need to negotiate access with a gatekeeper and get access to the site.

Observing the experience of an individual or group in that setting.

Public sites

Observing the homeless and transient population in Civic Center Park.

Research Question: How often do non-homeless persons ignore homeless persons, and what effect does that have on the homeless person?

Attending the services of a church attending by primarily Vietnamese individuals and a separate service attended by White individuals:

Research Question: How do cultural differences impact the experiences of people in church?

Observing on public transportation:

Research question: How do people with physical disabilities navigate public transportation.

Gatekeeper sites (sites where you would need to get permission to observer)

Observation of meeting like groups like Al-Anon (individuals close to those with substance abuse issues)

Research Question: How do people navigate family relationships when someone in their family has a substance abuse issue.

Observing an employee working in an interesting field

Research Question: How do people in the technology industry navigate gender dynamics?

Observation of an improv/comedy class.

Research question: How do women navigate improv and comedy, a male dominated field

Other ideas

People have observed social media sites and were interested in body image, gender dynamics.

People have observed in bars and were interested in seeing who the bartender serves first

With these types of projects (above), you may have to do more work to unpack the sociological relevance and to identify the research question.

Final Thoughts

I provided feedback on your Week 4 posts, where you shared your ideas. Please read that feedback!

I will also give you feedback on Step 1. I give extensive feedback at this stage so that Step 2 and Step 3 are easier to navigate.

If you have any questions about your idea, please reach out. Even a brief meeting or chat by email can help.

The project is designed with these three steps, to provide you the opportunity to grow as a qualitative researcher. There is plenty of time between each step for us to make improvements, so please if you are feeling unsure or tempted not to submit, reach out!