1.3 Investigation – gathering information
Key issues here are interpersonal skills, such as teamwork and communication. There is also understanding responsibilities (honesty and integrity of researcher), rights of informants (including data protection), and ethical issues (including confidentiality).
Interview skills need to be rehearsed and practiced. Other important issues are getting the setting right, making people feel comfortable, and ensuring you have a well organised approach to recording what is said accurately. A tape recorder is the best way of doing this, but sometimes this isn’t appropriate as we saw in unit 4, when the researcher had to abandon using a tape recorder because of the unwanted attention it generated which compromised the integrity of the record. Consequently, she had to change her research tool from an open interview to a semi-structured interview in order to aid her recall of the answers to her questions. Answers had to be memorised as note-taking wasn’t an option because the respondents would have felt uncomfortable with this.
The health and safety of yourself, any assistants and respondents should also be considered. It applies to fieldwork as much as to laboratory work. Try to think through the risks in each case and take advice on the best ways of minimising them.