Everyone A Researcher

Everyone A Researcher

By:  Edith W. King.  Feb, 2018



You can be a researcher!  Anyone at any age can take up the style of research known as naturalistic or qualitative research.  Natural or field research is carried out by observing people as they go about their everyday life.  It is also labeled as doing “field” work.  The aim of this style of research is to study human beings and to represent the real world in all its various layers of meaning.  This type of investigation begins with a problem, issue, or concern.  Next, one creates research questions. Then by collecting data on the problem or issue the researcher can analyze the findings and attempt to answer the research questions.  Characteristics of naturalistic research are described as follows:

…The researcher works in a natural setting.  Usually for those focusing on education this can be in schools, colleges and universities.  For some it can be homes, families, children, adults, animals too.

…Research studies can be designed and redesigned as the investigator formulates and then revises the research questions, the data gathering techniques and even the data being gathered.

…Data collection and data analysis can occur simultaneously.  Theories are not superimposed upon the data but emerge from the information being collected.

…The research is concerned with social processes and with meanings.

…The focus of the research can be a small number of individuals or a selected site.

…The process of the investigation can unfold or evolve over time.

…the researcher has an opportunity to give voice to marginalized groups of people, especially children, the undocumented or the underserved.

A useful and intriguing approach to planning a naturalistic, field study is to think of the investigation in terms of the FIVE “W’s” –        WHAT – the problem or issue;

WHY – the significance or reason for the problem or issue;

WHO –possible participants or the people targeted in the research;

WHERE – the location or places for the investigation;

WHEN – the time frame of the study.

Examples of Using the 5 W’s:

Previously shared within CPE networks “Small Schools and Traffic Pollution: A Universal Hazard” is a research example of applying the 5 “W”s.   To structure a naturalistic research project from this information, we can start with “the What” or the issue stated as: “The dangers created by rising levels of air pollution due to heavy traffic on highways and busy roads where smaller schools are located and young children attend.”  Next the “Why”—because people — parents, adults, teachers, administrators, children – are unaware of this air pollution so close to schools located next to high traffic roads.   The “Who”, possibly parents of young children in these schools, the teachers, administrators, others. The researcher can decide on this.  The “Where” a location or areas chosen by the researcher –such as a specific city, town, or country (as discussed in the article listed above).  The “When” currently, or in the recent past, or for the future.  Note how various alternatives are presented to the investigator to shape the design of the research.


Here is another example using the ubiquitous backpack as the focus of a research project.  The “What” is obviously the backpack. A description of this object can be a part of the researcher’s statement of the problem or issue to be taken up.  The “Why” contains the purpose of the research on the backpack or how certain individuals may use it or other reasons for investigating a backpack.  The “Who” describing the people that own and use backpacks, such as children, students, adults, athletes, etc.  The “Where” –locations, places, situations a backpack is worn or used.  The “When” currently, in the past, at specific times.   The investigator can begin with one design or structure but has the freedom in naturalistic, field research to modify, change, or re-invent the traditional components, i.e. –statement of the problem, the purpose or significance, the subjects or participants, the location and time frame of the study.


Planning and carrying out a naturalistic research project requires considerable thinking skills.  It is exploratory and can be open ended. The researcher can focus on a small number of individuals or subjects, as well as an accessible site where the action unfolds and is documented.  This brings up the next logical phase in research the collection of the data or “the How.”  When data is analyzed it should present findings (not results) that answer the research questions or clarify the issues raised. Hence, the knowledge obtained by the investigator, hopefully, should answer the research question(s) fulfilling the purpose of the study.

Edith W King. Emeritus Prof of Sociology. Worldmindliness Institute, Denver, Colorado, USA

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