Researching Social Life: seminars and workshops

Researching Social Life: seminars and workshops
Workshop portfolio task 7

Interview design, completion and feedback

In the last RSL lecture you were asked to consider possible questions (and prompts) for an interview schedule to answer the question: How do students at the University of Salford maintain contact with family and friends?
A. You as an interviewer
Complete your interview schedule and attach a copy of your interview schedule and prompts to this worksheet

Conduct the interview with one other person in the seminar group. After 7 minutes, swap roles, and you take on the role of interviewee.
(i) Me as an interviewer.

Interviewer: how do you maintain contact with family members and friends?
Interviewee: we never lose contact with the outside world and to necessitate this, we communicate with the friends and family through various ways.
Interviewer: what are the ways that you use to communicate with them?
Interviewee: there are three main ways that we use.
Interviewer: can you describe them?
Interviewee: one, there are visiting days set by the university authorities.
Interviewer: how does it work?
Interviewee: once per month, the friends and family members are given a visiting day that they can pay us a visit at the university and we catch up with each other.
Interviewer: what’s the next way?
Interviewee: the technological gale has enabled us to communicate with each other using: Face book, e-mails and phone calls. Those services are available since laptops and phones are allowed into the institution.
Interviewer: what’s third way?
Interviewee: upon request, one can be given permission during weekends.

(ii) Me as an interviewee

Interviewer: how do you maintain contact with family members and friends?
Interviewee: we interact with them through the university’s social events such as live bands, DJs and comedy nights.
Interviewer: since leisure time cannot take much of the university’s time schedule, how often are such social events?
Interviewee: they can be twice a month or once according to the authorities but can be arranged upon request.
Interviewer: who requests them on behalf of the students?
Interviewee: it’s the role of the students’ union.
Interviewer: Are there limits as in to who will attend?
Interviewee: each student is allowed to invite several friends and family members.
ii. Briefly, what did you find out from your interview?

I found that the students maintain contact with their family and friends through: visiting days, using technological services: such as laptops (emails, Face book) and phone calls. There are also social events such as live bands, DJs and comedy nights at the university where students are allowed to invite a few friends and family members.
iii. Evaluate your interview and your interview technique: What went well, what went less well; what would you change if you were to complete the interview again? How successful were you in keeping the interview ‘flowing’?

The interview technique was behavioural. During the interview, the replies went well but the interviewee was somehow hesitant when replying (it wasn’t a give-and-take interview session). If I were to complete the interview again, I would allow the interviewee to get assistance from fellow students when answering the questions (Julie, 2009). I kept the interview flowing by encouraging saying his point when he felt uncertainty on his replies.
cont…
B. You as an interviewee

iv. What do you think of the questions you were given?: How did the questions and/or themes differ to those in your own interview schedule?
When I was the interviewee, the questions that I was given were brief. The difference between my interview and that where I was the interviewee is that in my interviewer role I skipped nimbly into the ways that they maintained contact with the family and friends while in my interviewee role the interviewer delved deeply into a way.

v. Think about the idea of ‘reflexivity’: How might the issue of bias, or ‘positionality’ impact on the interview and the data produced in the interviews?

The interview may feel insecure to disclose some details in an interview for the fear of retaliation, to preserve personal values or those of the friends. In this way, the data produced in the interviews could greatly deviate from the actual happenings or from the reality.

Researching Social Life: seminars and workshops
Workshop portfolio task 5

Questionnaires and survey design
1. Questionnaire design I: critical evaluation

Critically evaluate the following survey questions
i. Do you read for your degree and how often?

Yes __ No__
These questions give the interviewee a choice to choose one of the answers (whether yes or no) and account for the answer. For example, the answer could be: Yes, I read whenever I can spare the time.

ii. How satisfied are you with your job?

Very __ A little __ Neither satisfied nor unsatisfied __ A little unsatisfied __ Very unsatisfied __

I am very satisfied with my job
This interview question necessitates the interviewee to choose the answer by ticking on the box that he or she sees the satisfactory of the job falls in. When uncertain of the reply fills neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.
iii. Do you sometimes feel estranged and disaffected with the velocity of change in modern societies?

Yes __ No __
This question entails the interviewee to opine (give his view) on the velocity of change in modern societies. However, the answer is limited to either yes or no and the interviewee is supposed on the box that his or her opinion falls on.

iv. Do you feel that ESPaCH’s PMC procedure at the UoS is easy to use?

Yes __ No __

The interviewee is expected to express his feeling based on to items and expected to fill either yes or no.The interviewee is expected to base his or her experience on experience and therefore must have used the procedure.
v. Many think that the current recession is the result of a credit crunch where unscrupulous and greedy bank bosses leant as much money to people who could not afford to repay the loans in order to generate huge profits for banks and so boost their own salaries, Do you agree that these bankers should be convicted in a criminal court?

Agree a lot __ Agree a little __ Neither agree or disagree __ Disagree a little __ Disagree a lot __
This question requires the interviewee to put his or her opinion by ticking on where their opinion falls into. However, they aren’t required to put their opinion directly but putting under which category it falls.

2. Questionnaire design II: completion and feedback

In the last RSL lecture you were asked to produce a questionnaire to answer the question: What are the experiences of new students at the University of Salford?

Administer this questionnaire with others in the seminar group. Obtain three completed questionnaires. Make sure you also complete someone else’s questionnaire

i Attach a copy of your questionnaire to this worksheet

Interviewer: As a new student at the University of Salford, how do you about it?
Interviewee: it’s completely different from the High School life because here at the University there is a lot of freedom.
Interviewer: compared to High School what is different?
Interviewee: At school, class attendance was mandatory but here it like, if you want to attend, it is up to you.
Interviewer: what other new experience do you have?
Interviewee: since this is a large institution, there are diverse students from all walks, backgrounds, culture and races of life unlike in High School where the students were merely from the neighbourhood.
Interviewer: what more changes do you see experience?
Interviewee: there are a lot of social activities like the comedy nights unlike in the High School days.
(ii) Evaluate your questionnaire

The questionnaire requires the interviewee to delve into his or her previous institution life and use that school life to compare with the new one. When the interviewee does is comparing and contrasting.

iii. What would you have changed?
I would have changed the thread of the questionnaire (Nigel, 1993). Instead of requesting the interviewee’s experience in the student as a new student, I would ask her or him to compare and contrast the experiences of former institutions and those of the university.
iv. How do the question themes differ to those on the questionnaire(s) you answered?
The difference on questions themes on the questionnaires that I answered is that the one that I answered involved the current life while the one above involved the interviewee reflecting on the past.
Researching Social Life

Lecture 1 / Seminar 1
(Week 19, 2010-11)

Thinking about beginning research:
Literature Reviews

What is a literature review?

As you will remember from ASAP last semester, a literature review discusses information from published sources in a particular area.

For example, you might write a literature review on:
• Class and social divisions in Scotland
• The problem of homelessness in UK
• The use of alcohol among the students at University
• The sociology of youth knife crime in Britain

What you are trying to do is look at all the evidence or the most important evidence relating to your subject and summarising what it tells you.

In the other words, we would like to know something more about the following subject:

‘The problem of homelessness in the UK’

For this subject you may read an academic article which tells you that: the problem of homeless occurs both in the countryside and in large cities

You may read a sociology text book which tells you: the problem of homelessness is more evident in cities than in the countryside

You may find some statistics (for example from a government website) that shows: the percentage of male homelessness is greater than female homelessness and that rates of homelessness are higher in cities
What sources should you use for a literature review?

Some sources are more credible, more reliable and more trustworthy than others.

For example, a newspaper article may be useful but may also be inaccurate as articles are produced very quickly.

Academics spend a long time checking facts, and having their own work checked by other people (this is called peer review). So, in most cases academic sources are the best to use.

Another example: Wikipedia can provide some interesting information, but you never know whether a particular page has been written by an expert on a topic, or whether it has just been made-up.

In sum, the sources have to be official and up-to-date.
Questions for discussion

1. What are the problems of using:
i) the internet
the information that has been gathered cannot be vouched for its accuracy, it may be substandard, the internet sources may be stretched and too much exaggerated compared to the original sources. The internet source researcher may spend many hours since he will have to navigate through spam, inaccurate reports and hyperlinks (Reviews, 2010). The information in the internet may also be founded on personal opinions or in some cases, it can be biased.
ii) the media
So as to reach each prospect, the cost becomes high; there is limitation to information when compared to the internet; the media may target a particular group; it may be hectic since there may not be the desired area of the research carried out.

2. What do we mean when we say an organisation is held to account for things that it says?

It means that the organisation may answer questions (be accountable) for what it says should legal cases arise
3. Why is it important to use sources that are up-to-date? What are the problems associated with this?
It ensures that the information given is also up-to-date i.e. is not outdated. Another importance is that it ensures that the report has been revised over again and so the researching result will be based on recent findings.

4. Thinking about your topic for last semester’s ASAP literature review
What sources did you use for the review?
I used articles, journal, magazines and goggle books.
How might you assess the credibility of these sources?
The credibility of these sources may be assessed by looking for “peer-reviewed” on the research databases such as WilsonWeb.
Researching Social Life: seminars and workshops
Workshop portfolio task 8

Ethnography and participant observation
1. Reflections on participant observation

Discuss your experiences conducting participant observation.

What settings did you observe?
I observed that the participants are supposed to be asked relevant questions i.e. questions that blend-in with their environment and topic; and also that the participants are supposed to be interviewed in their workplaces.
What happened?
The participants replied relevant questions if they were asked questions in the field that they were experienced in. Also, they were at ease when interviewed in an environment that they were used to.

How easy was it to observe social activities in normal settings?
By just observing the behaviour of the participants in the social places, it was easy to observe the social activities.

How easy was it to record your observations?
It was easy to record the observations by recording, and then replaying the recording later as I evaluate the observations.

Is it possible to draw any meaningful findings from your observations?
Drawing meaningful conclusions could prove hard because the participants could dispute the information at will for fear of retaliation which could greatly have an impact on the actual data.
2. Research design report

By now you should have a topic and research question for your research design report.
What is it?

Research topic: First-timer students experience in the University of Salford
Research question: Do you first time students at University of Salford get a new experience?
Students who are in the University of Salford for the first time get a new experience because of the morph of their life and comparison to their former school life. Whereas in their former institution there was limited freedom, the University has students from diverse backgrounds, races and other factors (Elizabeth, 1976). Among other factors, this could be attributed to range of leisure in the new institution when compared and contrasted to their former institution. Whereas in the university there are comedy nights, such things were never experienced in the former institutions.
3. Thinking about their own research project

How could you use participant observation to answer your own research question?
Think about:
What would be your ‘field’?
Effects of alcohol consumption in universities
Who would be your sample?
The university students other than those on their first year
How would you gain access?
I would gain the access by requesting for the permission from the authorities concerned and also the cooperation of the participants.
What would be your role?
My role would be personally interviewing the participants.
What would be the advantages and disadvantages of using participant observation in your research design?
Advantages
The information received is first-hand, the credibility of the participant information can be vouched for, and the results of the data evaluation can be observed in the participant’s environment.
Disadvantages: it’s time consuming and it may not be relevant (applicable) where the participants are not cooperating.
References

Elizabeth, F. (1976). Sociology theory in research practice. Boston, Massachusetts: Transaction Publishers.
Julie, M. (2009). Researching Social Change: Qualitative Approaches. California: SAGE.
Nigel, G. (1993). Researching social life. California: SAGE.
Reviews, C. T. (2010). Outlines and Highlights for Researching Social Life by Nigel Gilbert. California: Cram101 Incorporated.

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