In his article, Ethnographic Fallacies, Michael Buraway draws from field cases in his research career to discuss the ‘limitations of method.’ “No method is without fallacies,” he writes, “it is a matter of how honestly and openly we approach them.” Doing so is an ethical imperative because research can shape peoples’ lives. So “Being accountable to the people we study requires us to recognise our fallibility and, thus, to wrestle with that fallibility” (2013, 527). Accordingly, this set of handouts and exercise guide has been created to support students reflect upon the lifecycle of an group field based method project.
The guide begins by outlining points to take into consideration when identify and selecting a research problem, then how to situate that problem in a research genre(s). From there I shift to give my attention to the selection and implementation of methods. Finally, I turn to aspects that influence analysis and the dissemination of findings.
In each stage of their study, undergraduate and graduate students can use these handouts to improve their approach and application of these methods. As no research project is complete nor comprehensive, give some thought to the possible limitations of your chosen methods, and the possible fallacies they court. Could other methods have avoided these fallacies or weaknesses? All in all, consider this question as an opportunity to address the how you could improve your research practice. With apologies to Buraway, what this guide asks of you is not to indict method but to improve its practice.
Most of these handouts were generated by Scott Timcke and Graeme Webb for a field research methods class taught at Simon Fraser University in 2016. Other elements have been extracted from handbooks, articles, or from other scholars’ collections. Where appropriate acknowledgements and sources are provided. Some minor modifications have been made to fit material to a single page.