In the readings for this week authors Pattillo-McCoy in "Black Picket Fences: Privilege and Peril among the Black Middle Class" and Ostrander's "The Meaning of Upper Class" base their papers on first hand experience with the subjects to which they are writing about. In Oullette's "Inventing the Cosmo Girl: class identity and girl-style Amercian dreams" the author is deriving her observations on analysis of the text, i.e., Cosmopolitan magazine and direct quotes from the editor and "enlightened male intellectuals" (p. 370). There is a variety of methods a researcher can use to support their thesis, however in a good research paper it is important that you have validity with your readers and that the research can stand up to criticism. Some of the ways in which the authors collected their raw data was through interviews. The problem with interviews, albeit interesting to hear the stories and first hand experiences of the people being interviewed is that the answers are somewhat filtered through the lens of the author to support their thesis whether intended or not. Not all of the material collected during the interview process will be published of course. There is a certain amount of interpretation and framing involved in the question and answer phase. In some cases objectivity may be at risk in how the author perceives the intent of their subjects. Authors have more credibility in my opinion if they've actually come from the sub-culture to which they are writing about. In "Black Picket Fences" Pattillo-McCoy bases her article on direct experiences with the Groveland neighborhood and it's residents for at least, as she puts it, "By the end of my research tenure in Groveland, I had seen three groups of eighth-graders graduate to high school, high school kids go on to college, and college graduates start their careers." (p. 138) Having a practical and more longitudinal study carries much more weight for me. It is however interesting to read a compare and contrast piece like Ouellette's in "Inventing the Cosmo Girl" to get an historical perspective on how we developed, through the media, the cultural construct and discourse surrounding class and gender in this country.
I'm not defending or criticizing any one method. I enjoyed all the articles in their own right. I also believe that it is the responsibility of the reader to be diserning and question any assumptions made.