Outline of the research design (210 – 300) 340 Eileen Barker studied the religious group, the Moonies and looked at the truth behind the generally held beliefs about the Unification Church. She wanted to answer questions about Moonie beliefs and to see whether media claims condemning the movement as a ‘brainwashing sect’ are true. An opportunity to carry out the research occurred when the Moonies became worried about what was being written about them by people who were relying on the information of ex-members or outsiders, and they offered her access to members themselves.
As the Moonies approached her she was given the advantage of their co-operation. Barker was given access to people in a way which is unusual for researchers studying religious groups. However she did insist that the research was carried out on her own terms and not controlled by the movement itself. She began her research with initial questions. These came in three stages. The first being a personal level, then an interpersonal level and finally an impersonal level. She then conducted In-depth interviews. She interviewed 30 British members selected randomly with the interviews lasting between six and eight hours.
The main part of her research was Participant Observation. She lived with the members both at home and abroad over the six years. Her role as a participant observer went through three distinct stages. The first stage was passive observation, then interactive observation and finally aggressive observation. During the participant observation stage it was always known that Barker was not a Moonie her self. It would have been unethical to deceive the group pretending to be a Moonie. She didn’t conduct covert research because she feared for her own psychological health as the experiment took place over six years.
Her fourth method of research was Questionnaires. After two years she decided to test the hypothesis on a more systematic basis. She had a 41 page questionnaire that was given to all English speaking members. She compared her results from the questionnaire with the population of Britain to compare characteristics such as sex, age and social class. Reasons for Selection of research design (250-300) 351 Barker wanted her findings to be valid so she used four methods. Her Initial Questions were in three stages. The first stage was ‘A personal level’ to look at the experience of individual Moonies.
The second stage was ‘An interpersonal level’ to look at the interaction between Moonies and each other and Moonies and Non-Moonies. The third stage of initial questions was ‘An impersonal level’. This looked at the structure of the movement, its functions and consequences and looked at the overall role of the movement in society. With the In-Depth Interviews Barker had an outline of what she wanted to discuss but the order of questions was flexible. Areas covered included the background of the interviewee, why and how they joined, their life in the movement and their understanding of what they were doing.
Participant Observation was important. The aim of it was to gain a deeper understanding of the Moonies. The first stage of participant observation was ‘passive observation’. In this stage she did very little, just watched and listened. The next stage was ‘interactive observation’ were she felt familiar enough with the Moonies to join in conversations without standing out. Finally the last stage was the ‘aggressive stage’. This was when she felt confident enough to question some of what the Moonies believed in.
As she had been there for such a long time she was able to do this without being dismissed and told she didn’t understand the group. The last method was the Questionnaire to provide a sample of answers that could be looked back on and used to back up other areas of research. Together theses four methods work towards providing a more valid set of findings. They compliment each other to ensure that the findings are correct. If one method was just used the research would not be as valid as it is with the four different methods. Evaluation of Research Findings (350-400) 410
After going to a recruitment session and deciding to study the Moonies, Barker found there was no evidence that physical force or other means of affecting biological or physical make up was used on members. She argues that the fact that most people who are subjected to the Moonies are perfectly capable of refusing to join the movement rules out those explanations which rely totally on unification techniques of coercion. She also found that people’s background, personalities and past experiences are important in understanding why some people become Moonies and that for these people becoming a Moonie may meet certain personal needs.
Barker’s research is not reliable. The methods she used would make it hard for someone to replicate the study. In her research she used participant observation and this method is highly subjective and therefore unreliable. It could be argued that due to the amount of time spent with the Moonies she could have developed a relationship with the group and viewed them in a sympathetic manor. This is known as ‘going native. ‘ Also she used initial questions and interviews. These two methods again are not reliable as you can not conduct them exactly the same. Her method of questionnaires is slightly more reliable than her other three methods.
However taking in to consideration all four methods the research is not reliable. Her research was highly valid. As she used four methods over a 6 year period her findings were clearly valid. Each method backed up the findings of the other methods to ensure the findings were true and just. If she had used just the one method you couldn’t be sure everything worked perfectly. Where as, if you have four methods showing similar findings the research has to be valid. She also kept a diary which aided her in translating her findings at the end of her research.
With this added level of accuracy it gave her research higher validity. The research is obviously not representative. She only studied one religious group so it is not possible for the findings to be representative. Further more the findings cannot be generalised to the population as a whole as she only studied the one group. Barker’s research didn’t break any ethical guidelines. She was true to the participants throughout her study and didn’t attempt to deceive anyone. She was open in what she was doing from the start and everyone knew that she was a sociologists and not a Moonie.