Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Detective novels and writing social science

I've been reading stuff relating to qualitative methods, especially social constructionist and enjoying reading this small book from Czarniawska. She writes about other than the traditional interview, stuff like shadowing (both people and objects), doing diary studies and observant participation. She has written heaps and heaps of stuff - look at this list. No wonder she's an honorary academic at Copenhagen and Gothenburg.

She's interested in:
  • organisational studies
  • constructionism
  • narratology
In Shadowing (2001), she describes her embarrassment when following an FD in Warsaw she is told that the FD is busy or "these matters are not intended for the ear of strangers". So she knows the practical difficulties of research.

The last section of the book is about writing up research and it is here that she compares writing about research with detective fiction. I hadn't seen the genres as similar, but I enjoy detective novels, like Dexter's Morse, and P.D James' Dalgleish, or Sara Paretsky's VI Warshawski. Czarniawska compares approaches:
  • inductive
  • deductive
  • abductive
which were mentioned in the doctoral training workshop last autumn, and on the B852 business research methods in a paper by Thorpe & Moscarola. Different detectives have different approaches, as do researchers. When it comes to reporting findings convention might be flouted and she gives an example of chapter headings, some taking a dramaturgical approach and others framing activity as cyclical in character. She illustrates the influence on her own reports.

She also writes about people using multimedia, like cameras and videos. I want to use a camera to record where people meet and work, but think video will be too much intrusion, especially in the public sector. What clues will photos add that other methods would miss?

And then, wouldn't it be fun to be able write a detective story from the research data!

Czarniawska, B. (2001) Shadowing: and other techniques for doing field work in modern societies. 815

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