Research methods…

After reading the assigned pages about research projects and methods, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own project and the appropriate methods to use while carrying out my research. I never thought before how one’s knowing that I am a researcher or observer might affect the actual observations and/or data collected. For instance, I plan on observing doctor-patient interaction in the local health clinic, but can I really expect patients to act and express themselves as they normally would to their doctor if I weren’t there? Perhaps with me watching, they feel shy, embarrassed or a little scared. Maybe my presence influences what they tell the doctor, or maybe they feel like they can’t say exactly what’s on their mind with a stranger, let alone a complete foreigner, in their midst. Perhaps they care so much about appearances and what they look like that that influences what they divulge to the doctor and the manner in which they divulge their symptoms. Is it possible to obtain 100% accurate data? Is it possible to make quality observations that reflect what is really going on while being a known–or even unknown–participant in the research? I have also thought about conducting interviews to find out how the people in Irapuato view their interaction and communication with the local doctor. I would also like to know of any stigmas there might be about going to see the doctor. Again, with interviews there is a slight chance that participants will answer what they think I want to hear or am looking for. The questions I ask may also affect what I learn because it is possible to ask the wrong questions or questions that someone may misunderstand.

I’ve come to the conclusion that field research, especially when it has to do with social, qualitative (rather than quantitative) projects, is really quite complicated. So much of how you portray yourself, what you do or don’t do, etc., can affect the data and observations. 

I’ve also thought about whether complete cultural immersion is possible. I suppose I have to define what is meant by complete cultural immersion. Of course it is possible to learn the many nuances of a different culture, the different symbols and their representations and the underlying meanings of certain expressions of speech or actions. But there is so much more to culture, such as the culture’s way of viewing the world and their perspective and mentality. I think we can understand another culture’s perspective and mentality and adapt many of the aspects or ideas into our own culture, but there is that picking and choosing what will you accept and what you will reject. I think our own culture, whether it be on a national or individual level, is so fundamental to our very nature and being that it is impossible to completely get rid of all the symbols and meaning that aren’t the same as those of another culture, which makes it impossible to relate to someone of a different culture perfectly. But then, even people of the same culture can’t ever relate or understand each other 100%. 

I suppose that while one of my goals for this field study is to immerse myself in the culture as much as possible, I probably won’t be able to as much as I could if I weren’t going as a researcher/observer with a project.

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