Empirical Research Methods


Calvin Morrill
University of California, Irvine

The general aim of this workshop is to broaden and sharpen participants’ methodological imaginations and skills for conducting systematic, qualitative fieldwork – research that requires the researcher to spend considerable time “in the field” (that is, in situations and settings being primarily constructed and maintained by those being studied rather than by the researcher).  The techniques to be discussed are generally used for the purpose of generating and analyzing data that are not normally tapped by or amenable to survey research, demographic techniques, or experimental procedures, but can be used, with appropriate sensitivities, in conjunction with these methods.  Examples drawn from ethnographies of disputing in corporations, legal consciousness and conflict in schools, and urban settings will be used to illustrate how to systematically approach ethnographic data collection, data analysis, and writing.  Participants will be invited to share their fieldwork experiences, concerns, and aspirations in the context of discussion.

Workshop Outline

Part I:

  • Warrants, Components, and Hallmarks of Credible Qualitative Fieldwork  
  • Data Collection: Sampling, Solo and Team Participant Observation, Interviews,

Part II: 

  • Data Analysis: Open and Focused Coding
  • Writing: Constructing Texts and Relating to Theory

Background and Follow-up Readings:

  • *Fine, Gary Alan, Calvin Morrill, Sharmi Surianarain. 2008. “Ethnography in Organizational Settings.” Forthcoming in Handbook of Organizational Research Methods, edited by David Buchanan and Alan Bryman. London: Sage.
  • Lofland, John, David A. Snow, Leon Anderson and Lyn H. Lofland.  2006.  Analyzing Social Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis (4th Edition). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Morrill, Calvin. 1995. The Executive Way: Conflict Management in Corporations.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • *Morrill, Calvin, David B. Buller, Mary Klein Buller, and Linda L. Larkey. 1999. “Toward an Organizational Perspective on Identifying and Managing Formal Gatekeepers.” Qualitative Sociology 22: 51-72.
  • Morrill, Calvin, David A. Snow, and Cindy H. White, eds. 2005. Together Alone: Personal Relationships in Public Places.  Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  • *Snow, David A., Calvin Morrill, and Leon Anderson. 2003.  A Elaborating Analytic Ethnography: Linking Ethnography and Theoretical Development. @ Ethnography 4: 271-290.
  • Snow, David A., and Leon Anderson. 1993.  Down on Their Luck: A Study of Homeless Street People. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Additional Materials and Podcast:
Professor Morrill has made available the power point slides that accompanied the workshop. The slides are available here as Seminar in the Practice of Qualitative Fieldwork - Part I and Seminar in the Practice of Qualitative Fieldwork - Part II.

He has also provided the syllabus for a two-quarter-long course on Ethnographic and Qualitative Field Methods, co-taught with David Snow at U.C. Irvine. The syllabus is available here.

Finally, by clicking on the link at the top of the page, you can watch a podcast of the seminar taped in the JSP Seminar Room on September 18, 2007.