A Review on Erving Goffman’s Social Research Methods

Social Sciences in China Review

No.3, 2018


A Review on Erving Goffman’s Social Research MethodsAbstract


Wang Qingfeng


Erving Goffman was an important Western sociologist after World War II. Since he did not describe methodology systematically, and adopted unconventional data collection methods and analytical techniques, Goffman was often mistakenly considered as indifferent to methods. The fact is that he questioned traditional social research methods and regarded himself as an explorer in face-to-face interactions. His research methods can be divided into four types, namely traditional ethnographic field research, systematic participant observation, non-systematic naturalistic observation and literature research. His data analysis techniques include reclassification and re-nomenclature, reverse argumentation, comparison, polyphonic argumentation, etc., which demonstrate Goffman’s characteristics of thinking, such as categorization, reflection on order from disorder and normal from abnormal, and the cognitive philosophy of “multum in parvo,” or seeing much in a small space. Through a unique set of data collection methods and analysis techniques, Goffman systematically explored the field of micro-interaction and explained why interactive order is possible.