Qualitative research Essay

            1. According to Hammersley and Atkinson, ethnography encourages the researcher to “participat[e], overtly or covertly, in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions” (1995, p. 1). There are several key points in this definition that helped me to make an ethnographic exercise.

            First, the methodology puts a strong emphasis on human beings as valuable targets of investigation. Concentration on the life worlds of research subjects reveals meanings which people attach to their actions as taking place in social contexts. Ethnographic studies comply with the philosophy of naturalism that is “the study of social life in natural settings as they occur independently of experimental manipulation” (Brewer 2004, p. 312). Taking this into account, I went to Hyde Park on Sunday, when it was thronged with people from different communities and of various cultural backgrounds, to observe socially contextualized human behaviors. I have been doing observation for approximately two hours to collect as much data as possible. Using Silverman’s taxonomy of ethnographic projects according to the research site type, this was an investigation of the public realm since I intended “to observe how people in general behave in certain public contexts” (Silverman 2001, p. 75). Those whom I monitored exhibited natural patterns of leisure-time activities and provided me with the ideal framework for starting the ethnographic research.

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            Second, the abovecited definition of ethnography provided by Hammersley and Atkinson (1995) mentions the two kinds of observation. In the case of explicit monitoring, participants become aware of being watched. When the implicit or covert observation is chosen, people do not know about the presence of the researcher. I have picked up the latter approach to ensure maximum non-involvement into the social processes taking place around me. From the perspective suggested by Flick, I was the complete observer who “maintains distance from the observed events in order to avoid influencing them” (2002, p. 223). The approach has proved to be promising since I was able to identify important details about routine relationships between people under observation.

            To provide an example, there was an interesting group consisting of the father, the mother, and two small kids. Their postures, gestures and activities demonstrated the type of relationships between members of the family. The man was sitting comfortably on an easy chair with his sun glasses on. Apparently, he was reading a newspaper but, from time to time, he began to take long naps. Contrastingly, the mother, who was also sitting in the same fashion with a magazine in her hands, was neither reading nor sleeping. Her main attention was focused on the kids who were playing around with a ball.

            I had reasons to conclude that in that family the task of child-rearing rested on the mother’s shoulders, while the father preferred not to get involved. There were several times when the children ran too far from the parents to catch the ball. The woman vividly displayed anxiety on such occasions and started calling them back, while the man never changed his relaxed position and proceeded luxuriating in the warm spring sunshine. He occasionally lifted his head, looked towards the playing kids, exchanged a few words with his wife, and remained cosily nestled in a chair.

            A problem situation soon occurred. An old woman passing closer to the group was hit by the ball. Her cane fell down so she stopped and looked significantly at the parents. My first reaction on that moment was to jump to my feet and approach her to offer help. However, I was aware of my task to perform the non-participant observation so I stayed where I was and continued monitoring. The woman immediately stood up, went to the old woman, lifted the cane and handed it back to the old woman. They exchanged a few phrases and the ‘harmed’ lady left the site with a light smile on her face. The father of the naughty children has not changed his posture throughout the whole episode. It was evident that he preferred to withhold from the problems associated with children’s behaviors in the family’s everyday life.

            I had a chance to observe the completely different type of family relationships when I watched over another group of people. There were three men, four women and six children. All men wore colorful turbans, and two elder women were in traditional Indian clothes. On the opposite, the children had jeans and T-shirts on. I reasonably concluded that it was an Indian family with the two different approaches to the cultural roots. The elder people preferred to stick to the more traditional mode of living, respecting their Indian background, while the youngsters displayed less care about their mother culture. They preferred democratic casual clothes to confirm their respect for modernity and the American style.

            Observing those people, I came to the conclusion about the strong hierarchy existing in that social micro-unit. The men were vested with extended power, while the women altogether with the children had to demonstrate obedience and respect towards the male relatives. Despite wearing jeans, the representatives of the younger generation displayed awareness of the traditional Indian culture. There was an episode, when the eldest man in the group stood up, opened a bag lying nearby, took out a book that was wrapped in a green cloth, and started reading it aloud. Judging from the fact that the two elder women immediately covered their heads with headscarves, it was definitely some religious treatise. The children listened to the head of the family as attentively as the grown-ups. After some ten minuets, the man stopped recitation, wrapped the book back into the green cloth, kissed it, touched it to his eyes and forehead, and put it back into the bag. The women then poured some tea or coffee into mugs and handed them over to the relatives, starting with the children. Then the family got into groups. The elder people remained sitting on the bench, the two young women started walking around talking and laughing, while the children were playing catch-up. The episode demonstrates the respectful atmosphere in the traditional Indian families, where members are united together by the shared cultural ancestry, yet the power of the elders is not authoritarian but tolerant towards the needs of different generations.

            During the observation session, I faced no problems when sitting and watching over people. Nobody approached me asking what I was doing since there were many other visitors relaxing on the benches or on the grass and looking around. There was only one troubling moment when an old man, who was definitely in his mid 70’s, suddenly fell on the ground. The whole crowd immediately got attentive to the situation. While the two men and one woman were trying to help the old man to regain his footing, the two policemen reached the spot. Very soon the two guards appeared with a stretcher. The injured person was put there and taken away to the local first-aid center. Within approximately 15 minutes, the old man was carried out of the building and put into the ambulance that drove away.

            Staying on the bench in Hyde Park for about two hours, I obtained rich field data on human interactions and reactions to unexpected events. This was the ethnographic research since I concentrated on social phenomena, paid attention to different people’s groups and behaviors in the public context, and abstained from manipulating either the research site or participants.

            2. To complete the second task, I interviewed a waiter in a café in Hyde Park. He was a middle-aged man, rather sociable and communicable. He agreed to talk with me after his shift came to an end because of being “happy to help a student complete his research work” (see Appendix 1 for the interview transcript). The interview session lasted for approximately 30 minutes and tackled the issues pertaining to the changes that my informant experienced in his working life in the 21st century.

            Since I was oriented towards the qualitative research paradigm, I organized an empathetic interviewing session. It was not “merely the neutral exchange of asking questions and getting answers” (Fontana & Frey 2005, p. 696). Following Kvale, I treated the interview process as “a specific professional form of conversational technique in which knowledge is constructed through the interaction of interviewer and interviewee” (1996, p. 36). I was interested to learn more about my interlocutor’s background before asking specific questions. Overall, I demonstrated respectful and engaging behavior, encouraging the interviewee to share his biographic details, his opinions concerning profession, and his ideas about the changes that the 21st century has introduced to his life and job.

            The interview conducted belonged to the type of focused interviews due to “the focusing on a subject or topic of conversation determined in advance” (Hopf 2004, p. 205). I was looking to elicit data concerning the following points: the key events in the interviewee’s working life; the ways in which he has been affected by structural, technological, financial or informational innovations or crises; the good and bad sides of his job; the details of successes and frustrations; and the mode in which his work identity has changed throughout the career, including anticipations and desires for the future. I could not ask those questions in a straight-forward manner since it could cause discomfort or misunderstanding on the part of the informant. Therefore, I had to organize the interviewing process in a specific way.

            My interviewee was a man, and I had to take into account some specific behavioral and discursive patterns pertaining to masculinity as a social, cultural and psychological factor. As Schwalbe and Wolkomir have stated, male informants are either consciously or subconsciously preoccupied with the issues of power and control. They may regard the interviewing activity as a threat to their sovereignty or masculine authority. The abovementioned researchers have warned that “the subtle threat to control, hence to masculinity, can generate a kind of struggle” (Schwalbe & Wolkomir, 2003, p. 60). In order to avoid the problem, I used the mild yes goal-oriented manner to ask questions about my informant’s experiences. To establish comfortable and productive relationships with my confident, I made encouraging remarks such as “That sounds great” or “That is a great point, sir.” Those conversational techniques helped me to establish rapport between me and the partner in a dialogue so that he could become open to my inquiries without feeling some kind of threat on my part.

            The specifics of interviewing required a special sequence of questions belonging to different types. I started from general probes about the interviewee’s personal biography. I learnt that his mother was a teacher who dreamt of the academic career for her son. However, he was more interested in his father’s profession who was also a waiter. As a child, my interlocutor often visited the café in London where his father worked. He borrowed many ideas and positive emotions from that past experience.

            Upon establishing confidential relations with the informant, I started asking narrowly focused questions on the themes I was especially interested in. On the data analysis stage, I grouped the bulk of responses according to the themes that emerged in a course of an interview. I was able to locate five major themes. I called them “Key events,” “Effects of innovations,” “Good and bad sides of the profession,” “Successes/frustrations,” and “Changes/projections for the future.” I will summarize those points below.

            My interviewee confessed that the key event in his working life was serving Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom in the café where he has been working for 15 years. The man recalled the episode with pleasure: “She came here once and ordered for some soup. I had the honor of presenting soup to her. I shall never forget the moment when she smiled when I was presenting her the soup.” It was clear that his positive feeling concerning the event tackled not only respect for the VIP person visiting the place but also his own ability to meet the highest demands and expectations of people dining at the place.

            Judging from the informant’s remarks, he was not enthusiastic about the recent changes occurring in the realm of catering. The man stated that restaurants have changed significantly, and not always for the better. He recalled that “[t]hey used to be quite simple places during the times of my father.” The interviewee blamed technology for placing stronger emphasis on interior instead of caring about the quality of food or services. In their turn, customers also paid more attention to the design of the place. As my confident lamented, “people can not recognize the difference between the good food and the bad food.” From his perspective, technology has altered the clients’ mentality so that they “go more for the artificial things.” The interviewee expressed sad feelings about the loss of naturalness, whether it tackles the taste of products or people’s mindsets.

            The man told me that he loved his profession. The good side of it was establishing trustful and respectful relationships with the owner of the café and clients. The interlocutor of mine was happy when the customers were happy. His employer was eager to listen to his advices and concerns. The bad side was the shift in attitudes towards catering. As he has mentioned in the beginning of the interview, people used to look after more fun or more catchy design instead of valuing high-quality cuisine.

            Despite of the long history of professional success, the interviewee was aware of multiple hardships that could be met in the profession. He confessed in the following: “This is not an easy job. This is not easy to satisfy every customer. They are all in great hurry. They do not know that a good food takes time to cook.” However, the waiter I talked to found a positive side in the recent trend of speeding up catering services. Due to the increased market demands, owners of restaurants had to invent and implement better strategies for luring customers. They were encourage to introduce positive changes to their working environments.

            In the end of the interviewing session, my informant shared some personal viewpoints concerning some possible developments in the industry. He said the following: “But some new restaurant that starts a new business may catch our customers and the business of our restaurant may go down. Then, they may think of throwing some waiters out to save money.” Upon discussing that alternative, we ended conversation and thanked each other for time and effort spent on the interview.

            3. To complete the third task, I have picked up the message from Canon top managers Fujio Mitarai, Canon Inc. Chairman and CEO, and Tsuneji Uchida, Canon Inc. President and COO (see Appendix 2 for the full version). I used it to analyze the rhetoric patterns used by news-makers to promote critical ideas to the audiences. I used the guidelines provided in Bergmann (2004) as well as Bryman and Bell (2007) to conduct a simple conversation analysis of the first passage of the text.

            The first passage from the top management message orients the reader towards experiencing the clear change in the organizational strategy. The headline that goes like “The Kyosei Philosophy, Now More Than Ever” directly reveals the perceived positive attitude of the corporate environment. The presence of the comparison underlines the projected effect. The collective “we” used in the text demonstrates the solidness and collaborative mode of Canon culture where employees are regarded as a team sharing the same ideology. The integrity of the organizational collective identity can be compared to the diversity of the external reality which is revealed through the citation of target populations in the last paragraph: “we forge ahead with our many stakeholders throughout the world – customers, investors, suppliers and employees.” The juxtaposition of “we” and “they” does not signify any conflict between the parties. Quite on the opposite, various agents are called for joining their efforts to achieve “a renewed awareness of the importance of bringing about a society characterized by sustainable prosperity” and to “harmoniously live and work together for the common good into the future.” The exclamative words found in the text such as “excellent” are attributed to the company, whereas the lexical units arousing negative emotions such as “difficult” describe the situation outside Canon. These techniques help to create the perception of the company as a sustainably developing agency that is able to overcome the global crisis due to its integrity and reliance on efficient human resources. The reference to “harmonious” relationships between stakeholders underlines Canon’s focus on the quality of business assets as no less valuable than financial indicators.

Appendix 1: Interview transcript.

Interviewer: Thank you very much gentleman, for sparing time. I hope I am not bothering you.

Interviewee: well. No problem. I am happy to help a student complete his research work.

Interviewer: That is very nice on your part. You seem to know about research works. Did you ever attend some university?

Interviewee: Oh, no, no. I could not continue my studies after my O’ levels. In fact, I was not much interested in studies. I read about such things in news papers.

Interviewer: Ah. That sounds great. What is your favorite news paper?

Interviewee: Sunday Times. I love it as my mother used to read it when I was only a kid. She was a school teacher.

Interviewer: So, you are the son of a teacher. That is wonderful to hear. Please tell me more about your parents.

Interviewee: My father also worked in a café in London. I visited his café many times. Many things that I learned from him are still useful to me. My mother was a school teacher. She wanted me to be a college professor. But I was more interested in other things. I feel sorry that I could not fulfill her desire.

Interviewer: Oh. So you chose your father’s profession. That is right?

Interviewee: Yes. I remember visiting his café many times with mom.

Interviewer: What changes you feel have taken place in this profession, if you compare these times with those of your father’s?

Interviewee: A good many. A good many. The restaurants have changed. They used to be quite simple places during the times of my father. Now, they change the furniture and make changes in interior almost every year. But, I remember that my father’s restaurant remained same for as long as he was there. They were never bothered about the interior decoration or these hi-tech gadgets like CD Players and wide screen television. They were more concerned about the quality of food. However, now the restaurant’ owner are more concerned about the look of the restaurant. They do not pay enough attention to the quality of food.

Interviewer: That is a great point sir. I feel you are sad about the situation.

Interviewee: Well, even the people who visit the restaurants have changed. When I started my job 15 years back, people were very conscious about the quality of the food and they used to ignore other things like furniture etc. But now, people visit restaurants more for fun. That is why the owners are more interested in making restaurants a funnier place. They are more concerned that the interior should be very attractive and colorful. The music system should be latest. They should play the latest songs. The dancing floor should attract the crowed. There should be beautiful, young girls dancing. Now, the food is no standard. But these latest changes in the restaurant’s business should be of highest quality, not the food.

Interviewer: And you don’t like it. You want the quality of food and not the quality of music that should be the identity of the place. Am I right?

Interviewee: Yes. A restaurant is a place where people should come for food and not for listening music or enjoying dance.

Interviewer: So you think that the restaurants were a better place in the past.

Interviewee: They were great places where people could get excellent quality food. I remember that my father’s restaurant was famous for its Chinese dishes. But now, people can not recognize the difference between the good food and the bad food.

Interviewer: Well, what can be the reason behind this change?

Interviewee: Technology.

Interviewer: Technology?

Interviewee: Yes sir. Technology.

Interviewer: Will you please explain it for me how the technology has brought these changes in the restaurant’s quality?

Interviewee: This is quite simple. Technology has changed the life style of the people. It has changed the mentality of the people. Now, the people go more for the artificial things. They do not know what a natural thing can be. They do not know about the smell of a freshly cooked food. They go for the fast food that is freeze for many days. Many young men come here only to dance. Some people come here to watch a rugby match on our wide screen TV.  They will eat whatever is put on their table. They concentrate more on the music or the match and do not know exactly what they are eating. They can not differentiate between a good restaurant and a bad restaurant. They think that a restaurant that has more technological equipments is a good restaurant. This is very bad situation.

Interviewer: Can I ask about the difficulty that you may be facing in your job?

Interviewee: This is not an easy job. This is not easy to satisfy every customer. They are all in great hurry. They do not know that a good food takes time to cook.

Interviewer: That is right. But isn’t it that there is more competition in the market

Interviewee:  Yes, you are right sir. More and more restaurants are coming up with new ideas. They attract people with ideas. Our owner also wants us to come with great ideas. This is not easy to manage.

Interviewer: Can I ask about any problem that your job may face in future?

Interviewee: I am very much experienced now. But some new restaurant that starts a new business may catch our customers and the business of our restaurant may go down. Then, they may think of throwing some waiters out to save money. Who knows?

Interviewer: Very true. There is some great competition around. But this job must have given you some thing. That is why you are continuing it after all those years.

Interviewee:  I in fact love my job. I had many achievements. My owner trusts my judgments a lot. My customers are always satisfied with the service that I provide them. I have the honor of serving Her Majesty here.

Interviewer: Really? Please tell me about it.

Interviewee: She came here once and ordered for some soup. I had the honor of presenting soup to her. I shall never forget the moment when she smiled when I was presenting her the soup.

Interviewer:  That is really great thing to hear sir. I am really impressed the way you gave me the interview.

Interviewee:  Once a TV channel interviewed me here.

Interviewer: Sir, that is great to hear. I am really thankful for your time.

Interviewee: No problem. My pleasure.

Interviewer: Good bye

Interviewee: Good bye.

Appendix 2

The Kyosei Philosophy, Now More Than Ever

During 2008, the global economy fell into recession due to the effects of the financial crisis. Amid increasingly difficult economic conditions, Canon, in accordance with its corporate philosophy of kyosei, has gained a renewed awareness of the importance of bringing about a society characterized by sustainable prosperity. We accept this challenge as part of our aim to be a truly excellent global corporation worthy of admiration and respect around the world.

Kyosei aspires to a society in which all people, regardless of race, religion or culture, harmoniously live and work together for the common good into the future. It is our firm belief that now is precisely the time for the realization of kyosei as we forge ahead with our many stakeholders throughout the world — customers, investors, suppliers and employees.

A Change in Course to Improved Management Quality

Currently, Canon is promoting Phase III of its Excellent Global Corporation Plan, a mid- to long-term management plan that aims to position the Company among the world’s top 100 companies in terms of all major management indicators.

In 2009, to swiftly respond to the challenging business environment, we implemented a major change in course, from a focus on sound growth to the pursuit of improved management quality.

“Improved management quality” refers to the elimination of all waste. Specifically, throughout our operations we are promoting the optimal management of inventories and resources while simultaneously reviewing all of our processes and stepping up the pace of IT innovations to efficiently communicate standardized information throughout the entire supply chain toward improved speed and efficiency. Through advanced supply chain management and reinforced cash flow management, Canon will realize real-time management that facilitates accurate decision-making. With a renewed focus on technological innovation, even in the face of shrinking markets, we will push forward toward a stronger corporate constitution armed with competitive products and profit-earning power.

A Focus on Speed and Quality to Drive the Next Leap Forward

The promotion of improved management quality at Canon, with business operations across the globe, requires the enhanced trust and cooperation of stakeholders worldwide. We will work to increase the trust of our stakeholders by maintaining and improving compliance, quality and safety, and implementing employment initiatives and other measures that form the basis of corporate management towards sincerely addressing themes that contribute to the realization of a sustainable society.

The current severe economic climate presents us with the ideal opportunity to carry out reforms. Now is the time to think back to the slogan “Speed & Quality” from Phase I of the Company’s Global Excellent Corporation Plan. We will implement repeated reforms in a consistent and speedy manner, and when economic conditions again become favorable, we will have stored up the energy necessary to drive the next leap forward along with our stakeholders.

A Continued Focus on the Environment and Quality

Promoting both enriched lifestyles and the global environment is a prerequisite for the continuance of society. Through technological innovation, Canon pursues the maximization of resource efficiency to gain greater value from fewer raw materials and reduced environmental impact through greater management efficiency. In short, improved management quality that eliminates waste are activities designed to alleviate environmental burden.

Based on Canon’s newly drafted Environmental Vision, we are working with the cooperation of our customers and business partners to reduce CO2 emissions, make effective use of resources, and eliminate the use of hazardous substances throughout the entire “produce-use-recycle” product lifecycle to establish the Company as an environmental leader.

Quality is of vital importance in the manufacturing industry, and an extremely important management issue for Canon. One quality issue could result in inconveniences for customers and require a long time to recover their trust. Moreover, such incidents squander resources and energy, generate waste and impact the global environment. Canon has redefined its commitment to quality, resolved to deal conclusively with any problems that arise, and is revising its processes and framework accordingly.

Evolving as a Truly Excellent Global Corporation

The excellent companies of the world have excellent corporate cultures. Canon has a history of respecting human dignity, emphasizing technology and encouraging an enterprising spirit. This is a legacy that has been sustained by Canon’s guiding principles, based on the “Three Selfs” spirit — self-motivation, self-management and self-awareness — which dates back to the Company’s founding days.

Contributing to society while ensuring the succession of this legacy, Canon will pursue kyosei as a truly excellent global corporation that aims to prosper over the next 100, and even 200, years.

We ask for your continued understanding and support in our ongoing endeavors.

Retrieved from http://www.canon.com/environment/report/p03.html


Part 1:

Brewer J 2004, ‘Ethnography’, in C Cassell ; G Symon (eds.), Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organizational Research, Sage, London.

Flick, U 2002, An introduction to qualitative research, Sage, London.

Hammersley, M ; Atkinson, P 1995, Ethnography: principles in practice, 2nd edn, Routledge, London.

Silverman D 2001, Interpreting qualitative data: methods for analysing talk, text and interaction, 2nd edn, Sage, London.

Part 2:

Fontana, A ; Frey, JH 2005, ‘The interview: from neutral stance to political involvement’, in N Denzin ; Y Lincoln (eds), The handbook of qualitative research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Hopf, C 2004, ‘Qualitative interviews: an Overview’, in U Flick, E von Karndorff ; I Steinke (eds.), A companion to qualitative research, Sage, London.

Kvale, S 1996, Interviews: an introduction to qualitative research interviewing, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Schwalbe, ML ; Wolkomir, M 2003, ‘Interviewing men’, in JA Holstein ; JF Gubrium (eds.), Inside interviewing: new lenses, new concerns, Sage, London.

Part 3:

Bergmann JR 2004, ‘Conversation Analysis’, in U Flick, E von Karndorff ; I Steinke (eds.), A companion to qualitative research, Sage, London.

Bryman, A ; Bell, E 2007, Business research methods, 2nd edn, Oxford University Press, Oxford.