I came to the conclusion that the best tools for me to use during my inquiry were 'Interviews' and 'Surveys & Questionnaires'
Interviews can cover a range of subjects, and I think this is the best initial research tool for me to use as participants responses can lead to other questions or conversations rather than being held back by a formulated questioning pattern.
The time-consuming element does not worry me as my research will be taking place at the theatre I am working at, so it will become part of my work-day, with support from the General Manager.
I will have to be careful when composing the opening or initial questions. For example, I had a particularly strong response to a production I saw recently, and while I was thinking of questions I could ask regarding that play, one of them was "Does this make you think differently about the ways in which we present ourselves to other people." In conversation with my professional network, it was revealed that each of us had read something different into the play and I was the only one who saw it as a revelation of 'the self', and the dichotomy of what is true and what is not, when presenting ourselves to others. I also read it as an analogy for Social Media and the ways in which we can make ourselves and our lives appear more interesting or flattering.
In the informal trials I am planning with my network I will test out opening questions to see which lead to the most interesting and relevant results.
I don't feel that this method of research will be relevant to my inquiry, however I did find the discussion interesting from an ethical point of view.
The benefit of observation, acting as a 'disinterested observer' as the Reader suggests, is that it is possible to witness unbiased behaviour and responses. It is also useful to observe groups in an interpersonal situation.
However, the ethical dimension of this is what made me think: ethically the participants should be informed that they are being studied as part of a research topic, however this overt statement could lead to a change in behaviour which would obviously influence the outcome. It made me think of instances of scientific research where participants were told the study was in one area, when they were actually being observed for something completely different. Now this is unethical, to my thinking as participants should have the right to know what they are taking part in, and could feel exploited if prior permissions weren't sought, or if they feel they would have declined from the observed behaviour had they known they were being studied. Alternatively, knowing the desired outcome of a study, or even the area of a study, can make participants more aware of their behaviour and responses in this respect which would create biased results.
I did consider this as a tool of inquiry for my research as it would be interesting to discuss a range of opinions and thoughts at any one time. As mentioned above, when I discussed my response to a recent production with my professional network, I had taken a very different message from the piece when compared to others in the group.
However, I decided against this method due to the comparative difficulty in assembling a random selection of audience members post-show: given the environment of the theatre I feel it would be a more constructive use of my time to interview individuals and couples.
Having said that, I discovered recently that later in the year several productions may consider Audience Q&A sessions post-show, which would be an interesting environment to cover. I am intending to speak with the Artistic Director regarding this to offer my assistance setting these up (as this is one of the things an institutional dramaturg often participates in!)
SURVEYS & QUESTIONNAIRES
While I was considering the tools of inquiry, I realised that I may need to use Surveys and Questionnaires as a secondary research method.
The potential of this tool, for me, is to follow up interesting responses at a later time. If an audience member has a particularly strong reaction to a production, it would be useful for me to contact them, say, six weeks later, to see whether the impact of the production has made any significant changes to their outlook or lifestyle, as I discussed in a previous blog.
While the survey can potentially be limited in depth of responses, I would tailor each questionnaire to the individual's original response. This will be slightly time-consuming however I will only be using this in selected cases and each questionnaire will follow a similar pattern, based on the original line of questioning. The Reader suggested that there was a comparatively low response rate to surveys that were sent out indiscriminately, but those presented face-to-face, or personally, had a much higher rate of engagement, so I feel that individual questions based on a "In your interview you mentioned that you...." style, will have a greater impact and therefore a greater chance of receiving a response.