The Humphreys Research
Laud Humphreys (1970), then a sociology graduate student. decided to study homosexual conduct as a topic for his doctoral dissertation. His research focused 011 homosexual acts between strangers meeting in "tearooms," public restrooms in parks. He did not ask permission of his subjects, nor did he inform them that they were being studied. Instead. Humphreys showed up at public rest rooms that were known to be tearooms and offered to be the lookout while others engaged in homosexual acts. Then he systematically recorded the encounters that took place. Humphreys was interested in the fact that the tearoom participants seemed to live "normal" lives apart from these encounters, and he decided about their everyday lives. To determine were, he wrote down their auto license numbers and tracked down their names and addresses. Later, he arranged for these men to be included in a medical survey so that he could go out and interview them personally. He wore diff.:r~nl disguises and drove a different car so that they would not recognize him (Henslin, 1997). From these interviews, he collected personal information and determined that most of the men were married and lived very conventional lives. Would Humphreys have gained access to these subjects if he had identified himself as a researcher? Probably not-nevertheless. the fact that he did not do so produced widespread criticism (rom sociologists and journalists.
Despite the fact that his study. Ten room Trade (1970). WOll an award for its scholarship, the controversy surrounding his project was never fully resolved. In this chapter, we have looked at the research process and the methods used to pursue sociological knowledge. We have also critiqued many of the existing approaches and suggested alternate ways of pursuing research, The important thing to realize is that research is the "lifeblood" of sociology. Theory provides the framework for an analysis. and research takes us beyond common sense and provides opportunities for us to use our sociological il'l:1l1in3tion to generate new knowledge. For example, u, ',,'ehave seen in this chapter, suicide cannot be explained by common sense or a few isolated variables. in answering questions such as "Why do people commit suicide?" we have to take into account many aspects Jf personal choice and social structure that are related to one another in extremely complex ways. Research can help us unravel the COMplexities of social life if sociologists observe. talk to. and interact with people in real-life situations (Feagin. arum. and Sjoberg. 1991).
Our challenge today is to find new ways to integrate knowledge and action and to include all people in the research process in order to help fill the gaps in our existing knowledge about social life and how it is shaped by gender. race, class. age. and the broader social and cultural contexts if rich everyday life occurs (Candan, 1992). Each of us can and should find new ways to integrate knowledge and action into our daily lives (see Box 2.4),