Sidewalk- Reading Report
Category : Learning Notes
Date : 1st November 2017



Mitchell Duneier spent many years doing his study of some black people who sell books, magazines, and recycled trash on Sixth Avenue in Greenwich Village, and the author’s observing result came out with the book “Sidewalk”. After reading his book, I realized that it could reference with “Business Research Methods” by Donald R Cooper and Pamela S. Schindler (2013).


According to “Business Research Methods”, there are two methods to gather primary data, observing and communicating. Mitchell Duneier used both methods, which is a good way to gather the most primary data, such as fieldwork (getting in by working at their vending tables in their company and observing the roles they play), and personal interview (face-to-face communicating with them and gathering their stories).


When Mitchell Duneier was conducting the personal interview, he used a really proper tool- tape recorder. The advantage of using a tape recorder is that the interviewer does not have to take notes while interviewing, and the record will be complete and detailed. However, on the other hand, the disadvantage of a tape recorder is that when a respondent know that his/ her answer will be recorded, many of them will not tell the truth or anything that is too deep because of the untrusty. The acceptance to the tape-recording interview does not prove their trust to the method, the interviewer, or the whole interviewing process. Fortunately, Mitchell Duneier finally found that he could solve this problem by observing their behaviours, and get evidence by double checking the stuff they had answered in the tape.


Except the problem mentioned before, Mitchell Duneier also faced the ethnographic fallacy. Unlike the untrusted problem with the tape, the ethnographic fallacy is not an easy-solved problem, bring the bias, misunderstood, and mispresented. Due to the difficulty of solving the ethnographic fallacy, in my opinion, it would be better if the interviewer could avoid it instead of trying hard to solve it. For instance, the observer and interviewer should be chosen accurately, and well trained before the interviewing process.


From the further reading of “Business Research Methods” (Donald R Cooper and Pamela S. Schindler, 2013), I learned that there are some errors in communication research, and they are sources from three main factors: measurement questions and survey instrument, interviewer (sampling error, data entry error, process errors), and participant (lack of knowledge, misrepresentation of information, concept or construct misinterpretation, incomplete participation, refusal of participation). To solve the errors from measurement questions, survey instrument, and interviewer, it is important to choose the right method when conducting a study and train the observers and interviewers before the interview. When it comes to the participant-based error, it would be helpful if we could understand the possible factors that would influence the participants’ motivations.


Finally, below are my insights and summaries after I finished the readings:


  1. A good thesis is not only because of a good topic or a good result, it is all about the process. It should be emphasized on choosing a right research method that can reach the purpose of the thesis.
  2. It is very important to avoid the errors when gathering primary data. The less error there is, the more accurate research result will come out.


(Picture Reference: Sidewalk)



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