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Field jobs which researchers take up during ethnographic research

Evaluate the implications of different field roles research workers might take up when undertaking an Ethnographic study of the office. The study of Ethnography, "involves the ethnographer participating overtly or covertly, in people's daily lives for an extended period of time, viewing what happens, listening to what is said, requesting questions- in fact collecting whatever data can be found to put light on the issues that are focus of the research" (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995: 1). Ethnography creates a system to recognize various new issues and gives importance to the participant's viewpoints and experiences by focussing explicitly on communal context. Through the Ethnographic research, lots of new questions relating to to the place of work are raised apart from the original questions. Ethnographic research has some down sides like the replication of the task is extremely hard, purpose of research might not exactly be fulfilled, frustrating, data generated may not be appropriate, may contain researcher's own assumptions and it is challenging for ethnographer to get access to the study site. (Friedman and McDaniel, 1998) In this essay, I am going to start out with defining different field tasks in the terms of overt and covert role, which experts take up during ethnographic research. Then, I will be discussing various implications of the different field roles with relevant experiences of researchers in their methodological ethnographic review at various workplaces.

There are different roles which analysts take up during ethnographic analysis at work. They may be Complete Participation, Complete observer, Observer as Participant and Participant as observer. In the complete participant role, the researcher becomes member of the company or group which is being analyzed and doesn't disclose his or her purpose to the group participants but continues to do with the research at work. In complete observer role, the researcher does not reveal the goal of his or her activity to the customers but observes about the activity carefully and bears out research. In such a role, there's always a opportunity for misunderstanding the perspectives of the individuals through observing his or her behaviour without knowing real intentions. Both of these tasks are "Covert" and the other functions like Observer as Participant and Participant as Observer are "Overt". In Observer as participant role, the researcher just observes by disclosing his / her purpose of the study to the people or organisation and in participant as observer the researcher participates directly by revealing goal. (Saunders et al, 2007)

In the initial days and nights of fieldwork, the researcher is actually considered as amateur in his new and strange environment. The researcher can take overt or covert role depending after the type and reason for his research at different workplaces. The role that your researcher adopts may change in the process of his research to accomplish his preset targets. But, the process of obtaining data is often a significant consent in the Ethnographic analysis. Usage of the work place where research must be carried out is a critical issue; it is matter of getting authorization to become a part of activities of the workers and company. In overt role, usage of the study is obtained through series of negotiations between researcher and the management. The study of Barbera- Stein (1979:15) on day-care centres for pre-school children illustrates that, even after her repeated requests for permission to see the staff she's been given limited access to the personnel indulged in children puppet play trainings. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995) The major concern of Ethnographic review is not just getting access to the organisation but the acceptance of the staff to add for the research. The field work of Jason Heyes (1996:355-356) at chemical flower as observer as participant tells that even though Jason was presented with complete freedom by management to see the creation process, workers were not so co-operative offering information in initial levels as they found him suspicious. But later when his true goal was known, employees were more formal and interactive to him. The other discussion for not providing complete gain access to is because of insufficient trust. Unless the researcher builds up a trusting relationship he can't gain valid information as members think him as spy or due to little knowledge about sociable research. Kaplan's studies on New Britain fishermen illustrates that she was believed to be either government public or investigator, which made fishermen to be unwilling to her research. (Kaplan, 1991:233)

When the usage of the work environment is subsequently clogged by gatekeepers, the researcher can take the covert role in getting access to the office. Also, this role is followed when the researcher seems that workers might provide untypical data credited to private reasons. In covert role, the researcher might become one of the customers of company where he participates immediately in development activities. Donald Roy's research (1952:427) in material processing plant shows that he joined place as radial drill operator and carried out research work by documenting in his memory space and noting them down at end of day without disclosing his individuality to his fellow employees and management. In this kind of research, the researcher must deceive the gate-keepers, as gain access to appears to be impossible or permission is constrained. But covert role has severe constraints on the research as it will be limited to some degree and activities great difficult in hiding the id and retaining the trust. In the event the id of the researcher is well known in virtually any circumstances during research, it could lead to higher difficulties and he might face hostility from the company or group. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995)

In Ethnographic research, personal appearance is vital as sometimes it is essential for the researcher to clothe themselves in the same manner as people being examined. In covert role, the researcher must present himself like the participants like this of Wilson (1963), where she had taken the role of assembly employee so that her fellow staff don't question her integrity. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995) Even when the researcher needs the overt role, the appearance can be important factor as it helps in developing marriage and gaining trust among members. With different categories of participants and various social contexts, it is necessary for the researcher to create impression and deal with appearance irrespective whatever role he or she adopts in-order to fit in any moving situations. In some instances, the identity can be developed through skills, knowledge or skills that your researcher might already posses. In case of Ram's research (1996) in clothing industry his skills and understanding of the industry (through working and family business) offered him an edge to find out the issues in the management activities in relation to market and on the shop floor.

Due to dynamics of its process, Ethnographic study is always time consuming process and they have great scope for researcher's passions to get diverted from genuine objectives. Through the fieldwork the non-public activities of the personnel sometimes not only impact the researcher's aims but also it may cause surge of new questions concerning their activities. Piore's (1983) research in factories on worker's acquisition of new skills concludes that his views about procedure for acquiring new skills by staff were irrelevant after hearing them. In addition, his research discovers that the social relations among staff which make them to obtain new skills from each other. In covert role, credited to complete participant in production activities it sometimes causes over rapport between researcher and the staff, which may influence the data collection. Even in overt role, over rapport with any particular group in organisation may lead to problems of rapport with other organizations and may also limit researcher's rapport with the management. In his research of local union control, Miller (1952:98) describes his problem scheduled to close romantic relationship with union market leaders. To be able to obtain more info about union organizations, his friendly relations with some union leaders not only resulted in limited data collection but also lead to problems of rapport with other groupings. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995)

In Ethnographic analysis, the non-public characteristics of the researcher like years, gender, race, religious beliefs and ethnicity are absolutely determinate. Irrespective of the role used these personal characteristics form serious implications of the study. The study work of Linda Dickens (1998) on "gender equality" points out the implications of gender at work in terms of participation, purchase work, work time, overall flexibility. The effects of gender can be acquired by concentrating on the tasks of women experts, where gender halts them from entering into activities that happen to be accessible to men. In same manner, male research workers find difficult to get access to women's world especially where cultures are bonded with religion. From the knowledge of Rainbird (1990:78), I can sketch that even though her dressing appearance made her to attend meetings like that of men but she was limited from drinking. Alternatively, she acquired good usage of women's activities. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995) In similar way competition, ethnicity, religion and age group can also arranged limitations and lay down problems for the research workers.

The role of complete participant seems to be very attractive as it avoids the need for negotiations, provides genuine information and obtain inside knowledge. But, becoming person in the company or group sometimes may place researcher in great pressure, especially if his personality is blown out. This may lead to hostility, it will be difficult to complete entire work and sometimes it could lead to severe embarrassment for researcher itself. With each one of these implications, the idea of reflexivity is argued by research workers like Jules- Rosette (1978a & b) which evokes the necessity of total immersion in "native culture". It suggests that researcher shouldn't be just passing member for the company or group when going to do research, but actually he should become real member. This makes reflexivity a significant feature of sociable research. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995)

In Ethnographic review, the degrees of stress and tension at fieldwork are noticeably high for the researcher regardless of the role he adopts. In covert research, there is always a feeling of insecurity while preserving his cover on id along with making of research opportunities. In overt research, there is strain of living with an unclear and uncertain position provided research is carried out in moral manner. The researcher might induce to wide range of feelings like basic safety, fear, anger, aggravation and sensitivity. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995) In Ethnographic research, the amount of new issues due to the research process is high and unique depending on particular framework. But these issues and activities are not very easy to replicate, merely impossible anticipated to which data validity and selective reporting is a concern. For instance, Burawoy's research (1979) at same metallic place where Roy (1954) had worked for quite some time, had didn't reproduce same findings and perceptions of the workers. Thus, even though ethnography creates new insights every time in research but it will have a problem in proving background, which raises a question about validity and dependability of research studies. (Friedman and McDaniel, 1998)

There are some ethical issues which are worried around sociable research focusing mainly on the behavior of the researcher and participants. In covert research, the researcher holds out research without knowing to other participants. This problem always boosts the question of deception and manipulation which occurs credited to obtaining gain access to by hiding personal information. Even in overt research, sometimes researcher might not reveal his true purpose in-order to obtain valid information. Research individuals should be given enough assurance on the privacy and respect to their feelings. The problem of personal privacy is also serious concern for ethnographic study as the researcher in virtually any role could easily get access into private data at workplace which are intended to be secretive. The information which researcher gathers during his fieldwork should provide benefits for the company or group than creating any damage, creating positive and outright human benefits. (Hammersely and Atkinson, 1995)


In ethnographic review, direct participation and discussion with workers at workplace makes its contribution unique. It offers detail evaluation, perceptions of participants and scope for new issues which can't be achieved through other studies. In the process of Ethnographic research, analysts choose overt or covert role which has placed various implications like usage of work area, building trust, negotiations, selective reporting, personal characteristics, validity and reliability of the data which are mentioned in the essay. Even though study is frustrating and dangerous, it has an important role in research as it provide insights to changes in work area, reliable and impartial information by considering the perceptions of the members and experiences of the researcher in a social context. Thus, various implications of the overt and covert role are discusses in the article with relevant activities of other analysts.

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