In studying the movement known as Scientology, Roy Wallis had problems gaining access to members of the movement, who were generally unwilling to co-operate. He eventually contacted a former member who had written a book, who put him in touch with a number of other former members. From these interviews he gained documents including a mailing list. The mailing list was out of date but it did provide him with some contacts, who then led to others. Some also agreed to be interviewed.
Wallis applied to become a student on an introductory course run by Scientology group but had to leave after a short time because he had so many disagreements with other members.
Eventually, after writing to the leaders of the movement, he visited the headquarters of the sect in Britain and spoke to one of the officials, who allowed him to talk to a few members. He then felt he had enough knowledge to write his book about Scientology.
Answer the following questions:
- What were the four main methods of research used by Wallis?
- Why was this always going to be a difficult area to study?
- In what ways was each source of information likely to be biased?
- How did Wallis try to overcome this?
- Wallis suggested that each ‘picture’ he found was ‘partial’. Can you think of two ways in which each source of information was likely to be ‘partial?’