Pragmatics of my Research

In chapter 7, Knight states that too many small-scale researchers start without being sufficiently alert to what can go wrong. Novices can be so wrapped up in their own work that they never ask why anyone should be willing to participate and they imagine that organizations will give them access, that people will talk to them and trust them, that practices can be reorganized so that they can do field experiments and that questionnaires will be eagerly completed and swiftly returned. Expert researchers are more pragmatic and allow for access difficulties and low response rates and know how they might adapt their plans if need be.

This worries me, as an issue surrounding my research was already participants. The population I’m focusing on is homeless persons in Toronto. I already perceived that it would be difficult to find these individuals. However, according to Knight, novices just assume that people will be willing to open up and trust them, and that organization’s will let them in. I was going to go to 4 homeless shelters in Toronto to find persons to interview. However, this makes me a bit worried as who’s saying these organization’s will even let me in? Especially with a population that is so vulnerable. 

Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking maybe having back up shelters? But I don’t think this will be enough. Any input is greatly appreciated!! Thanks 🙂

Victoria Grant 



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3 responses to “Pragmatics of my Research

  1. Liz

    Hi Victoria,

    Although gaining access is a challenging hurdle for researchers, I believe integrity and commitment play an important role. Once you show your commitment to the participants or communities, they will trust you with the information that they are giving you. Another thing is to find the right individuals to interview. Some people may be easier to talk to and more open to disclose their personal information. Perhaps it would be helpful to first spend some time to observe and identify potential participants.


  2. Hey Liz,

    Thanks for your input!! My only concern is that it would be challenging to observe potential participants. For example, if I observed a particular homeless individual, and decided they would be suitable, then went home, how would I contact that exact person again? Homeless persons generally have no fixed address and no method of technological communication such as a cell phone…

    Victoria Grant

  3. oliviawisniewski

    Hi Victoria,
    As you and Liz have already ascertained, your research predicament is a difficult one. Tracking down your participants is challenging, and, as Liz mentioned, it’s important to exude integrity with the participants in your study in order to gain respect and foster acquaintance, thus building a foundation for future contact. I’m sure you’ve encountered the Canadian Homelessness Research Network (CHRN) and their web-based library and information centre ‘Homeless Hub’ in the process of your research. Nonetheless, I would like to draw your attention to one study found on the hub which was conducted in Ottawa. Though dated, I hope it will answer some aspects of your question:

    Canadian Mortgage & Housing Corporation. (2003). Developing a Methodology for Tracking Homeless People Over the Long Term. Retrieved From:

    Here, the major challenge was to track the long-term development of homeless participants in order to identify factors that support people in ending their homelessness. The interviewers asked participants to provide consent for contacting associated individuals and agencies within a year of the study. What came out of this project is an ‘empirically validated model’ for tracking homeless participants. 262 of 416 homeless participants, or 63%, were successfully located by the end of the study. The outcomes (as seen in the ‘Lessons Learned’ section) proved several facts, most important being: 1) using this research method is labour/time intensive, and; 2) a researcher must employ appropriate tracking strategies to participant sub-groups (you’d use a different method to track down adult male than you would a teenage girl). What do you think? Could it be a beneficial method for tracking? My issue here is that the first point of contact in this method is through e-mail or phone number, suggesting that the homeless participants have free access to the internet through the Ottawa public library (and you can’t access the internet without a library card, which I realize is part of the main focus of your study here!)

    Aside from this, if you were to consider this method for collecting contact information, would you change aspects of it to better serve the purpose of your own research? If so, what would you change?

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