Robert M. Emerson
Department of Sociology
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, California

Biographical Information
Recent Books
University of Chicago Press Ethnography Series



Biographical Information

Robert M. Emerson is Professor in the Department of Sociology at UCLA.

    Department Chair, 1996

  Vermont, Summer 1998
Bob and Ginger, University of Lund, May 2000

Harvard College, BA, magna cum laude, 1962 (History)
Brandeis University, MA, 1964 (Sociology)
Brandeis University, Ph.D., 1968 (Sociology)
      Dissertation: The Juvenile Court: Labelling and Institutional Careers

Academic Positions
Fellow, NIMH Field Training Program, Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, 1965-67
Post-Doctoral Fellow in Law and Sociology, Russell Sage Foundation, 1967-69
Research Associate, Center for the Study of Law and Society, University of California, Berkeley, 1967-1969
Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, UCLA, 1969-1974
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, UCLA, 1974-1983
Professor, Department of Sociology, UCLA, 1983-present
Vice Chair and Director of

Book Series Editor (with Jack Katz), Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries, University of Chicago Press, 2001-

University and Community Service

President, Board of Directors, Beverlywood Mental Heath Center, 1986-1996.

Staff Sociologist, Kolts Commission Investigation of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, February-July 1992.

Co-Chair, Chancellor's Service Learning Task Force, UCLA, 1998-99.

Chair, External Review Committee, Community Studies Department, UCSC, October 1999.

Curriculum Vita [link]

Recent Books

       Published by Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, IL

Table of Contents:





Clifford Geertz
Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture

D. Lawrence Wieder
Telling the Convict Code

Paul Atkinson
Ethnography and the Representation of Reality

Martyn Hammersley
Ethnography and Realism



Erving Goffman
On Field Work

Maxine Baca Zinn
Insider Field Research in Minority Communities

Mitchell Duneier
On the Evolution of Sidewalk

Dorrine K. Kondo
How the Problem of "Crafting Selves" Emerged

Carol A. B. Warren
Gender and Fieldwork Relations

Barrie Thorne
Learning from Kids

Robert M. Emerson and Melvin Pollner
Constructing Participant/Observation Relations

Richard Leo
Trial and Tribulations: Courts, Ethnography, and the Need for an Evidentiary Privilege for Academic Researchers



Howard S. Becker
The Epistemology of Qualitative Research

Jack Katz
Analytic Induction Revisited

Kathy Charmaz
Grounded Theory

Howard S. Becker
Tricks of the Trade

Jack Katz
Ethnography's Warrants

Michael Bloor
Techniques of Validation in Qualitative Research: A Critical Commentary
Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

Robert M. Emerson, Rachel I. Fretz, and Linda L. Shaw

Published by The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL

Translations in Japanese and Spanish (forthcoming)

University of Chicago Press Ethnography Series
Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries

Series Editors:   Bob Emerson and Jack Katz
   University of California, Los Angeles

This new monograph series will publish ethnographic research which incorporates central features of the Chicago fieldwork tradition.  These include:
Novel data, produced by originality in the places and people studied, in the angle the researcher takes in the field (e.g., looking ‘from below’ at a setting often seen through the lenses of people in positions of power), or in the way the researcher interacts with and records evidence about the people studied.

Naturalistic data, providing unique access to subjectivity and to lived experience in contemporary social life, leading to analyses grounded in the experience of the people studied, in their worlds as they live them, and preserving their own sense of their situations and the personal colors and innovations through which they shape their  conduct.

Explicit analysis and self-reflective methods, promoting a triangular relationship between reader, author and subjects; our model ethnography is a framework in which the reader, by seeing not only the author’s interpretations but the subjects more or less directly, can assess how the author is re-presenting them.

Fieldwork Encounters and Discoveries Editorial Board

Eli Anderson, University of Pennsylvania
Arlene K. Daniels, Northwestern University (Emerita)
Marjorie Devault, Syracue University
Mitchell Duneier, University of Chicago/CUNY
Gary Alan Fine, Northwestern University
David Halle, University of California, Los Angeles
Doug Harper, Duquesne University
Gail Kligman, University of California, Los Angeles
Calvin Morrill, University of California, Irvine
Henri Peretz, Universite de Paris, VIII
Melvin Pollner, University of California, Los Angeles
Paul Rock, London School of Economics and Political Science
David Snow, University of California, Irvine
Barrie Thorne, University of California, Berkeley
Diane Vaughan, Boston College
Carol Warren, University of Kansas

For inquiries about submitting manuscripts to the Series, contact the co-editors at the following addresses:

 Bob Emerson
 Jack Katz


Articles and Book Chapters

"Naturalistic Perspectives in Analyzing Field Data:  Working with 'Key Incidents'."  In Clive Seale, David Silverman, Jaber Gubrium and Giampetro Gobo, editors, Qualitative Research Practice.  London:  Sage Publications, 2003.

"Participant Observation and Fieldnotes" (with Rachel I. Fretz and Linda L. Shaw). Pp. 352-68 in Paul Atkinson, Amanda Coffey, Sara Delalmont, Lyn Lofland, John Lofland (eds.), Handbook of Ethnography. London: Sage Publications, 2001.

"Ethnomethodology and Ethnography" (with Melvin Pollner).  Pp. 118-35 in Paul Atkinson, Amanda Coffey, Sara coming Delalmont, Lyn Lofland, John Lofland (eds.),  Handbook of Ethnography. London: Sage Publications, 2001.

"Constructing Participant/Observer Relations." (with Melvin Pollner) Pp. 239-59 in Robert M. Emerson (ed.), Contemporary Field Reseach: Perspectives and Formulations. (Second Edition.)  Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2001.

"On Being Stalked." (with Kerry O. Ferris and Carol Brooks Gardner) Social Problems 45:289-314, 1998.
  -- Reprinted in Bernadette H. Schell and Nellie Lanteigne (eds.), Stalking, Harassment and Murder in the Workplace.  Westport, CT:  Quorum Books, 2000.
  -- Reprinted in Mary Sue MacNealy and Mary Ellen Pitts (eds.), Genres in Writing: Rsearch and Synthesis across the Disciplines.  Allyn and Bacon, forthcoming.

"Bus Troubles: Public Harassment and Public Transportation."  (with Carol Brooks Gardner)  Pp. 265-73 in Perspectives on Social Problems, Vol. 9.  Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1997.

"Fieldwork since Hughes: Continuities and Change."   Pp. 35-45 in Actes de la "Journee Hughes".  Centre de Recherches Sociologiques et Historiques sur l'Eduction, Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris, France, 1996.
  -- French translation, "Le Travail de Terrain apres Hughes: Continuites et Changements," Societes Contemporaines, n. 27, pp. 39-48, July 1997.

"Constructing Serious Violence and Its Victims:  Processing a Domestic Violence Restraining Order."  Pp. 3-28 in Gale Miller and James A. Holstein (eds.), Perspectives on Social Problems:  A Research Annual, Vol. 6.  Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1994.
  --  Swedish translation in Malin Akerstrom (ed.), Kriminalitet, Kultur, Kontroll: En Antologi.  Stockholm: Carlsson Bokforlag, 1996.
  -- Reprinted in Gale Miller and James A. Holstein (eds.), Social Problems in Everyday Life: Studies of Social Problems Work.   JAI Press, 1997.

"Doing Discipline:  The Junior High School Scene."  Pp. 260-72 in Mary Lorenz Dietz, Robert Prus, and William Shaffir (eds.), Doing Everyday Life:  Ethnography as Human Lived Experience.  Toronto: Copp Clark Longman, Ltd, 1994.

"Capital Trials and Representations of Violence." Law and Society Review 27:59-63, 1993.

"Difference and Dialogue: Members' Readings of Ethnographic Texts." (with Melvin Pollner)  Pp. 79-98 in Gale Miller and James A. Holstein (eds.), Perspectives on Social Problems:  A Research Annual, Vol. 3.  Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1992.
  -- Reprinted in Darin Weinberg (ed.), Qualitative Research Methods.  Blackwell Publishers.  2001.

"Disputes in Public Bureaucracies." Pp. 3-29 in Susan S. Silbey and Austin Sarat (eds.), Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 12, Part A.  Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1992.

 "Organizational Horizons in Complaint-Filing." (with Blair Paley)   Pp. 231-47 in Keith Hawkins (ed.), The Uses of Discretion. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 1992.

"Case Processing and Interorganizational Knowledge:  Detecting the `Real Reasons' for Referrals."  Social Problems 38:198-212, 1991.

"Tenability and Troubles:  The Construction of Accommodative Relations by Psychiatric Emergency Teams."  Pp. 215-237 in Gale Miller and James A. Holstein (eds.), Perspectives on Social Problems:  A Research Annual. Vol. 1.  Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1989.

"On the Use of Members' Responses to Researchers' Accounts." (with Melvin Pollner)  Human Organization 47(3):189-98, 1988.

"Four Ways to Improve the Craft of Fieldwork." Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 16(1):69-89, 1987.

"Holistic Effects in Social Control Decision-Making." Law and Society Review 17:425-55, 1983.
 Reprinted in:  Richard Abel (ed.), The Best of Law and Society Review.  New York:  New York University Press, 1995.

"Dynamics of Inclusion and Distance in Fieldwork Relations." (with Melvin Pollner)  Pp. 235-52 in R. M. Emerson (ed.), Contemporary Field Research: A Collection of Readings. Boston, MA: Little Brown, 1983.

"The Micro-Politics of Trouble in a Psychiatric Board and Care Facility." (with E. Burke Rochford, and Linda L. Shaw) Urban Life 12:349-67, 1983.

"Trouble and the Politics of Contemporary Social Control Institutions." (with Carol A. B. Warren)  Urban Life 12:243-47, 1983.

"Enterprise and Economics in Board and Care." (with E. Burke Rochford, and Linda L. Shaw)  American Behavioral Scientist 24 (6):771-85, 1981.

"On Last Resorts." American Journal of Sociology 87 (1):1-22, 1981.

"Observational Field Work."  Annual Review of Sociology 7:351-78, 1981.

"Policies and Practices of Psychiatric Case Selection." (with Melvin Pollner)  Sociology of Work and Occupations 5 (1):75-96, 1978.

"The Micro-Politics of Trouble." (with Sheldon L. Messinger)  Social Problems 25 (2):121-34, 1977.
  -- Reprinted in Oscar Grusky and Melvin Pollner (eds.), The Sociology of Mental Illness: A Book of Readings.  New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981.
 -- Reprinted in  Ken Plummer (ed.), Symbolic Interactionism, Volume II -- Contemporary Issues.  London: Edward Elgar Publishing, 1991.

"Dirty Work Designations: Their Features and Consequences in a Psychiatric Setting." (with Melvin Pollner) Social Problems 23 (3):243-54, 1976.
  Reprinted in:  Hiasaura Rubenstein and Mary Henry Bloch (eds.), Things That Matter: Influences on Helping Relationships.  New York:  MacMillan, 1982.

"Role Determinants in Juvenile Court."  Chapter 16 in Daniel Glaser (ed.), Handbook of Criminology.  Chicago: Rand McNally, 1974.
  Reprinted in:  Barry C. Feld (ed.), Readings in Juvenile Justice Administration. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).

Book Reviews

Douglas W. Maynard, Inside Plea Bargaining:  The Language of Negotiation.  Contemporary Sociology 17(1):64-66, 1988.

"Reflection and Reflexivity in Ethnographic Fieldwork."  Review Essay, Contemporary Sociology 16:35-37, 1987.

Robert Dingwall, John Eekelaar, and Topsy Murray, The Protection of Children:  State Intervention and Family Life.  Sociology of Health and Illness 7:119-21, 1985.

Sue E. Estroff, Making It Crazy: An Ethnography of Psychiatric Clients in an American Community. (with Linda L. Shaw)  Urban Life 13(1):103-07, 1984.

Stephen J. Pfohl, Predicting Dangerousness: The Social Construction of Psychiatric Reality.  Contemporary Sociology 10 (1):100-01, 1981.


“Naturalistic Perspectives in Analyzing Field Data: Working with ‘Key Incidents.’” Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, October 14, 2002.

Workshop on Ethnographic Field Work for the European Union Reseach and Training Network: Women in European Universities, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, October 4-7, 2001.

“Reflections on the Sociology of Trouble.”  Department of Sociology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, May 30, 2001.

“Some Reflections on Fieldnotes and Contemporary Ethnography.”   Third Annual Chicago Ethnography Conference, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, February 24, 2001.

“Current Issues in Ethnographic Research.”  Seminar Series, LeRoy Neiman Center for the Study of American Society and Culture, UCLA, February 7, 2001.

“Constructing Participant/Observation Relations.”  Kercher Speaker Series, Department of Sociology, Western Michigan University, October 27, 2000.

“Some Issues in Contemporary Ethnographic Field Research.”  Department of Sociology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, March 10, 2000.

“Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes.”  (with Rachel Fretz and Linda Shaw) Didactic Seminar, American Sociological Association, Toronto, Canada, August 9, 1997.

"Reclaiming the Field."  Plenary Address, Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction, Couch-Stone Symposium, Nottingham, UK, July 17, 1996.

"Ambivalently Motivated Complaints in the Processing of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders."  Joint Meetings of the Law and Society Association and the ISA Research Committee on the Sociology of Law, Glasgow, Scotland, July 12, 1996.

"Fieldwork since Hughes: Continuities and Change."  La Journee E. C. Hughes, Ecole Normale Superieure de Fontenay-Saint-Cloud, Paris, France, March 25, 1996.

"The Continuing Significance of Cicourel's The Social Organization of Juvenile Justice."  Pacific Sociological Association, Seattle, WA, March 21, 1996

"Differences between Anglo and Latino Family Caregivers for Persons with Alzheimer's Disease:  Qualitative Findings."  The Gerontological Society of America, Annual Meetings, Los Angeles, CA, November 18, 1995.

"Using Qualitative Methods to Study Alzheimer's Family Caregiving."  Multidisciplinary Research Colloquium, Series in Aging; Andrus Gerontology Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, November 9, 1995.

"The Dangers of Public Places."  Conference of Sociologists Against Sexual Harassment, Washington, D.C., August 20, 1995.

"Third Person Supporters and Applying for Domestic Violence Restraining Orders."  Annual Meetings of the Law and Society Association, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, June 1995.

"Teaching Students to Write Ethnographic Fieldnotes."  (with Rachel Fretz and Linda Shaw)  Qualitative Research Conference '95, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, June 1995.

"Some Dilemmas of Ethnographic Field Research."  California State Univerity, Los Angeles, Alpha Kappa Delta Chapter Awards Banquet, May 1995.

"Cooperation and Resistance in Alzheimer's Family Caregiving."  UCLA Center on Aging, April 1995.

"Strategies for Analyzing Qualitative Data in Mental Health Research."  RISP Workshop on Qualitative Methods in Mental Health Research, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, April 1995.

"Talk and Members' Meanings in Ethnography."  Annual Meetings of the American Sociological Association, Los Angeles, CA, August 1994.

Presider and Discussant, Community Service Workshop on "Children and the Courts", Annual Meetings of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Los Angeles, CA, August 1994.

"Decision Horizons in Handling a Junior High School Interracial Incident."  Annual Meetings of the Law and Society Association, Chicago, IL, May 1993.

"From Variable to Process:  Constructing "Relational Distance" and "Prior Record" in the Criminal Justice System."  Presentation to the Sociology Board, University of California, Santa Cruz, February 1993.

"Normal Cases and Typification".  Annual Meetings of the Law and Society Association, Philadelphia, PA, May 1992.

Workshop on Teaching Law and Society, Graduate Student Workshops, Annual Meetings of the Law and Society Association, Philadelphia, PA, May 1992.

Panelist, "Integrating Experiential Education into the Curriculum."  1992 Experiential Learning Conference, University of California, Berkeley, April 1992.

"Typification and Social Control Decision-Making."  Conference on Inequality, Crime, and Social Control, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, April 1992.

"The Institutional Transformation of Troubles."  Presentation to the Sociology Board, University of California, Santa Cruz, November 1990.

Invited Participant, Rockefeller Foundation Seminar on Public Service, Stanford University, October 9, 1990.

Didactic Seminar on "Field Research", American Sociological Association, August 14, 1990.

"Disputes in Public Bureaucracies."  Presentation to a Workshop on "Trends and Opportunities in Disputing Research" sponsored by the Fund for Research on Dispute Resolution, Washington, D. C., June 7, 1990.

"Differences in Processing Intimate vs. Neighbor Disputes."  With Susan McCoin.  Annual Meetings of the Law and Society Association, Berkeley, California, June 1, 1990.


Sociology Immersion Program
    The Sociology Immersion Program (SIP) combines intensive field experiences with three integrated courses over two quarters to introduce upper-division students to the theory and practice of ethnographic field research.  Field placements are closely integrated with courses on qualitative research methods and developing writing skills.  The program provides sustained and meaningful community involvement and hands-on research training with professors in small intimate class settings.  Field placements in the areas of conflict resolution, criminal and juvenile justice, mental health care, are particularly encouraged.  In 2002 SIP is developing a new community ethnography program for middle and high school youth.

 Center for Experiential Education and Service Learning

Courses Taught:

Soc. 106AB, Field Research Methods

Soc. M146, Sociology of Interpersonal Conflict

Soc. M149, People Processing Institutions

Soc. 217BC, Ethnographic Fieldwork

Soc. M229A,  Sociology of Interpersonal Conflict

Soc. M229B, People Processing Institutions


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