220.127.116.11 Observation as a means of discovering how communities operate Examining communities rather cross-cuts other phenomenological uses of observational or ethnographic research. The study of a culture, be it an anthropological study of tribal life (such as Malinowski 1922, 1954) or a sociological study of a small town, (Blumenthal, 1932) or a geographic study, inter alia, is about, exploring social processes and organisations, how work and leisure are undertaken, how social order is maintained and how social interaction is framed. It usually involves observation along with a host of other methods and is often interdisciplinary and eclectic in its intention.
Community study as a methodology usually involves the intensive study of a relatively small number of cases often employing some form of participation in, or close observation of, the activity of the community. Community study also tends toward practical applications rather than purely theoretical perspectives.
with the study of the interrelationships of social institutions in a locality. This does not mean all social institutions locally present have to be studied but unless these interrelations are considered they will not considered as community studies.
This implies that a community is geographically located and in face-to-face contact rather than a dispersed community using virtual contact.
The Bell and Newby definition excludes research that fixes on a single social institution in a community setting, such as a family. Thus, Young and Willmott's (1957) studies of family life in Bethnall Green would not be a community study.
It has been argued that community studies are neither possible nor desirable. The first problem is the lack of a definitional consensus. Second, in practice, community studies are non-comparable and non-cumulative. Third, micro-studies will not provide a view of the whole society because the sum of society is greater than the parts. Fourth, the 'community' tends to be a product of the researcher's engagement and may not reflect a real integrated 'community'. The method, it is argued, tends to lead to the expected results, as researchers find the community bonds and networks they expect to see.