SC&I Dean Jonathan Potter and his co-author, Chloe Shaw, have written a chapter titled “The Virtues of Naturalistic Data” in the new book titled “The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection,” edited by Uwe Flick and published in January 2018.
According to Potter, the chapter “Describes some historical approach to naturalistic data and evaluated their pros and cons. It offers two tests for deciding whether data is naturalistic. It overviews ways of successfully working with such data. It makes the argument that given the possibility of both collecting and working with naturalistic materials researchers need to provide more justification for using open ended interviews, say, or focus groups.”
In the chapter Introduction, Potter and Shaw write, “This chapter focuses on the reasons for working with naturalistic data. That is, it starts with an interest in life as it happens* as far as possible independent of the researcher’s constructions, practices, and interventions. Naturalistic data is in contrast to elicited data in qualitative social science; naturalistic rather than natural, to flag epistemic cautions that will be developed . . .”
Further, the chapter Introduction explains, “The use of naturalistic materials opens social science up to new questions, challenging its orthodoxies, and revealing orders of social life that have fallen into the gaps between the theories and instruments of mainstream approaches.”
Potter and Shaw state, on the last page of the chapter, “What we have tried to do here is develop the applied and training virtues of working with naturalist data. None of this is intended to say that social researchers should give up the practices that are the mainstay of modern qualitative social science: interviews, focus groups, various forms of ethnography . . . However, we are strongly of the view that across the wide expanse of social science the balance is wrong.
“Too much qualitative social science is based around a taken for granted assumption that the natural way to do research is to perform some qualitative interviews, a set of focus groups, or a period of ethnography. We would rather researchers thought more about the choices here, and developed clearer rationales for those choices. Given that records of actual action and events can* be studied in a way that is systematic and rigorous, that can* generate new questions and novel insights, and can* be the basis for effective application and training, we would like the onus of justification to fall more on those adopting other kinds of data.”
*Italics are the author’s.
The full reference is: Potter, J. & Shaw, C. (2018). The virtues of naturalistic data. In Flick, U. (Ed.). The SAGE handbook of qualitative data collection (pp. 182-199). London: Sage.