Angrosino’s Projects in Ethnographic Research Ch. 2-3 [Gabriel]

Chapter 2 (Basic Principles of Ethnographic Research)

Ethnographic research is done in the field rather than in a lab.

  • requires personal contact between the researcher and the study community.
  • seeks the perspectives and meanings held by the community.
  • is designed to generated data to build general theories.
  • makes use of triangulation, using multiple means to collect data from a variety of sources, such as observations, interviews, and archival material.
  • seeks a holistic perspective, which means understanding the context of behavior and not simply the content of it.

Ethnographer studies people in the settings in which they actually live, work, and play.

  • does not simply record acts or expressions, but also how those fit together as to constitute a culture.
  • must have cultural relativism, which is the assumption that all culture is meaningful and useful and that it is neither good nor bad, it just is.
  • looks for answers to social and cultural questions and become part of the everyday life of the people being studied in order to establish real friendship and rapport.
    • Essential to rapport is mutuality, which is when the researcher reciprocates what he is asking those being studied to do.
    • Often takes shape of reciprocal social arrangements such as driving people to appointments, babysitting, sharing personal aspects of researcher’s life, or treating people to meals. The giving of money is not considered desirable.

ETHICS

Ethnographers must respect the people they study and protect their dignity.

While they might owe something to those funding their research, the academic community, and the general public, the interest of those being studied comes first!

Informed Consent-process of giving human subjects enough information to make the decision if they would like to participate.

Confidentiality-principle of protecting the privacy of individual participants.

Ch. 3 (Site Selection and Other Practical Considerations)

Unit of Analysis – a workable unit of analysis that can be counted, measured, and described.

Should select a unit that is locatable and bounded.

Can be located in real space of virtual space, such as online groups.

In terms of being bounded think about units that are confined or belong to an established group, such as members of the local downtown business association or members of a Native American tribe on a reservation.

A unit of study that would not be considered bounded could include people who floss their teeth – this group of people are scattered.

SELECTION CRITERIA

Logistical Criteria

  • Select a unit that is close by
  • Can do observations without running cost
  • Single researcher vs. coordinated team?
  • Can be done in a time-efficient manner
  • Any potential barriers to entry?

Definitional Criteria

  • How can the group be bounded?

Conceptual Criteria

  • Are there sufficient numbers of people in the unit to make the study worthwhile?

SOME PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS

  • Do I need special permissions to enter the community?
  • Will I need any supplies to carry out research?
  • Will I need special equipment?
  • Do I need to make special arrangements for work and living space?
  • Do I have the kind of clothes considered appropriate?
  • Do I need to make arrangements for transportation?

FIRST CONTACT

It is desirable to enter the field “cold,” but you could also work by identifying a gatekeeper before diving into the community.

SOME PERSONAL CONSIDERATIONS

A “good” ethnographer is:

  • Adventurous
  • Resourceful
  • Enthusiastic
  • Self-motivated
  • Trustworthy
  • Risk-taking
  • Curious
  • Sociable
  • Able to think conceptually
  • Culturally sensitive

Reflection Questions:

  1. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory?
  2. Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?
  3. Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out?
  4. Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.
  5. What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?
  6. As an ethnographer you are supposed to have cultural relativism, but what do you do when you find maybe a practice done by a group unacceptable or immoral in your opinion?
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21 thoughts on “Angrosino’s Projects in Ethnographic Research Ch. 2-3 [Gabriel]

  1. 1. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory>
    You get to be right in the middle of the action. Meeting and interacting with the subjects under scrutiny
    2. Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?
    In our NASA Stem Project….we have student pre and post assessments to analyze how they felt at the beginning of the program and how they currently about wanting to learn more science. We also collect surveys from administrators and teachers to determine their feelings about the productivity of the program.
    3. Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out?
    To I haven’t had to do this, so I am interested in hearing about anyone who has.
    4. Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.
    1 unit that is bounded =an Indian tribe being analyzed in once small area.
    1 unit that is not bounded= people who drive Red BMWs
    5. What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?
    You don’t know what you are up against. So you learn as you go.

    6. As an ethnographer you are supposed to have cultural relativism, but what do you do when you find maybe a practice done by a group unacceptable or immoral in your opinion?

    Stop the practice— and meet and evaluate why the group was unacceptable or immoral. Then engage in a dialogue to determine why they have done what they have. Given your own opinions and recommendations the group no longer engages in this process. If they do, there has to be another reason why? So delve deeper.

    • People who drive red BMWs is a group that is not bounded because one could say they are scattered throughout. A group that could be bounded would be a BMW owners online community where the people who own BMWs gather to talk about their cars.

  2. 1. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory?
    By completing research in the field the researcher is able to seek a holistic perspective. Through this researchers are able to understand the nature and context of behavior instead of the content alone. The nature and context of the behavior is often more informative than the content of the behavior.

    2. Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?
    When my team and I completed our fieldwork at Lindsay we used triangulation. We used walk-through observations, survey data, and focus group interviews to collect our data. The survey data included both qualitative and quantitative components. Based on the responses given on the survey, we then created focus group questions to gain a greater understanding of the nature and context of the responses.

    3. Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out?
    No, I have not used mutuality in any projects or fieldwork.

    4. Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.
    An example of a bounded study would be to research the learning styles of students with Autism in California’s public schools. This is bounded because you would complete your research only with students with Autism in a California public school setting. An example of a study that would not be considered bounded would include people that watch television. This group of people is scattered.

    5. What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?
    If “cold” research is completed the researcher has not had time to develop their own “opinions of truth” about the study. Through this it becomes more of a learning experience for the researcher.

    6. As an ethnographer you are supposed to have cultural relativism, but what do you do when you find maybe a practice done by a group unacceptable or immoral in your opinion?
    Discuss the actions that were taken with the group responsible and explain why the practices completed were immoral or unacceptable. Those individuals responsible might need to be replaced if they are not able to respect the cultural relativism of the participants. In addition, the research needs to be stopped due to the unacceptable actions. Above all, ethnographers must respect the people they study and protect their dignity.

    • Ethnographers must respect the people they are studying along with their cultures and practices. As stated in the reading the researcher must remember that all culture is neither bad nor good, it just is.

      If for some reason the researcher feels that a culture being observed is immoral, the researcher must remove himself from the study to allow another unbiased researcher to continue the work.

  3. 1. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory? Doing research in the field will give a thick description of those or that being studied. Field studies can answer more questions.

    2. Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ? When my team analyzed the Graduate Student Center, we used archival materials such as the Grant, annual meeting notes, the website, etc., quantitative surveys that had been previously conducted, and finally, we conducted qualitative focus groups.

    3. Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out? We served special desserts and non-alcoholic drinks to our participants. We also arranged our focus groups at different times and gave potential participants their choice as to which time would best serve them. I do not know if this is considered mutuality (I know money is not), but on one of my field studies teams we offered a chance at winning a gift card to a local restaurant if their name was drawn.

    4. Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.
    A bounded group might be the members of a particular church. An unbounded group might be people who wake up every morning and drink a cup of coffee.

    5. What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?
    By going to the field cold, it will give the researcher a chance to observe naturally without a gatekeeper informing the observed that someone is coming. A researcher might see more natural responses by going in cold. Also, going in cold could also allow the researcher to just go in and see what he or she sees. They might have no idea of what they are going to find, and then boom, they find it!

    6. As an ethnographer you are supposed to have cultural relativism, but what do you do when you find maybe a practice done by a group unacceptable or immoral in your opinion? Personally speaking, I would try and observe the actions through the Actor’s point of view. I would try to suspend my own biases and judgments and be a true observer. Ethnographers are researchers not missionaries. If I were a missionary, I might try to preach to or pray for these people and try to get them to stop their unacceptable or immoral behavior, but as a researcher, I would study the behaviors. GREAT QUESTION Gabriel!

  4. Q1: To add to this discussion, I think the most important benefit is the ability to experience the context/behavior firsthand. When you experience the desired behavior firsthand, perhaps you understand the intentions and motivations behind it. This provides (in some cases) more depth of understanding than is provided in a laboratory setting.
    Q2: In terms of triangulation, I think that the best example would be when we worked with NASA SOI in the Lamont School District. We were looking at how the program was effectively serving the ELL population out at the STEM campsite. After completing an IRB, we were able to administer two surveys to the student participants. One was an ELD needs measurement (single survey). The second survey was a pre/post that examined STEM strategy efficiency. We were also able to complete a series of classroom walkthroughs that examined teacher instructional behaviors. Finally, we were able to interview a teacher and administrator sample from the district.
    Q3: I don’t think that I have actually used the idea of mutuality in our field research. I think because of the time constraints that we have faced, it has been tough to even get intimate enough with the client in a manner that would call for me sharing something appropriate. I do know that in my classroom (both 6th grade and FPU), there are multiple opportunities to drive instruction and often it is facilitated by me telling a personal story about something that has happened to me. For example, we write in our journals every day in my 6th grade classroom. My students often tell me that one of their favorite things about my class is when I share stories that relate to the writing prompt. It builds capacity and strengthens our relationship within the classroom.
    Q4: Well, bounded could be a study of the American Olympic Team (men’s or women’s) and not bounded would be people that like to swim on weekends.
    Q5: The author references going in “cold” as being something that is sometimes desirable. Perhaps it is a good thing since it doesn’t frontload any expectations. You just show up and put people on the spot (and then find out if they really want to participate). If you plan ahead, then you have prepared the subjects for your study and will probably have validity/reliability issues. I think that the gatekeeper idea (if it’s really a gatekeeper) is your best bet, especially with the time constraints that we experience in this program.
    Q6: As a true rookie, I would say you have to honor the code, since no one has given you the right to come into a context and judge what is going on. I would think that if you show up to your field study and then start interfering with what you deem is inappropriate or immoral behavior…well, you have compromised your study. It is here that I have visions of myself running for the hills after hearing my study subjects scream, “He ain’t one of us!” Okay, too much television. This brings to mind our interactions with researchers in Antarctica every year. My students always ask what the researchers do when skuas rip the adelie penguin babies out of the nests right in front of them. The McMurdo researchers always declare that they do NOTHING. They are there to observe, not interfere with the natural flow of things. My students are always horrified when they hear this!
    Troy

    • Field research definitely gives you a more in depth look into a culture than laboratory research would because it allows you to experience the reasons behind the activity and actions being observed. A researcher would then not only be able to answer the “What” type of questions but also the “Why” types.

  5. One project where I used triangulation was when a few of my colleagues and I researched the performance based system Lindsay Unified had implemented in their district. In this study we used survey data, interview data, and informal observational data to access what was working in this system and what the next steps for improvement should be.By using triangulation we were able to confirm some overarching themes with quantitative and qualitative data, which in the end strengthened the research outcomes.

    • My groups and I have also found the mixed methods approach to be the best so far. Not only to you get a deeper look into the situation you are there to observer/research but you get confirmation of some of the answers you might have drawn from surveys and other quantitative data.

    • If we would not have used triangulation during the Lindsay project I do not believe that we would have received such an in-depth understanding of the research results. To me, the observations of PBS helped me understand how the PBS system works at Lindsay more than the surveys and focus groups.

  6. One reason you might be better off going in “cold” versus finding a gatekeeper first to let you in is that sometimes the gatekeeper who lets you in might actually hurt your chances of meeting the right people for the study or getting honest feedback from the people. For example, if the gatekeeper was regarded as someone the group can’t trust, that will impact how they view you. Also, going in “cold” lets you see things as you go instead of ideas that you migh alreadt come up with if you found out some stuff before hand.

    • Going in cold definitely keeps your mind open to formulating your own perceptions and ideas. As for the “evil” gatekeeper, this might be another opportunity where the researcher must do his/her research about who the best gatekeeper might be and how the community views that person.

  7. In response to the first question, I’d have to first say that the benefits of fieldwork over a laboratory setting lie firmly in the question of context versus content. Many times in a lab setting the questions that are asked are in regards to one content or definition. There has always been interest in this type of questioning and information. However, fieldwork asks for the researcher to identify question in context and how it relates with the context it is within. The chapter seems to delve into this what it discussed cultural implications and contextualizations, too. Furthermore, fieldwork can be beneficial because a lab setting cannot always account for or reproduce the variables present in the field. Sure, one can bring gang members into a room together, get them coffee, and ask them questions, but it isn’t the same as going to the gang affiliated area in order to see and find out the relationship gang members have to the context of their question in order to help answer them.

    In response to a time I used triangulation, I had done so with the Arvin team in Dr. Hauser’s class. We were able to observe teachers and classrooms in order to determine time usage, send surveys to students at the school about time usage, and send surveys to the teacher’s about time usage. Then, we were able to triangulate the details of each piece of data in order to determine time usage at Arvin High School. It was an excellent way to make the information presented to the high school REAL and USEFUL information. They got to see how teachers thought time was used in a block schedule classroom, how students saw the time used in a block schedule classroom setting, and what the researchers actually saw as far as time usage.

    • I agree with your statement, “fieldwork can be beneficial because a lab setting cannot always account for or reproduce the variables present in the field.” I also feel that sometimes research in a lab setting has many disadvantages that the researchers do not address adequately. In the field of special education, there are many research studies that have been completed in lab settings. The results from these studies are often misleading to me because the environment in the lab was set up conducive for optimizing positive results. In a classroom it is nearly impossible to create a setting with similar optimum conditions as in the lab. This results in different and more valuable results in a classroom setting that can be more beneficial practitioners in the field.

      • Great point, Anna. Human behavior is messy and unpredictable. Circumstance and people interact differently on any given day. Not only can you not reproduce in the lab the variables in the field. you can’t even reproduce it in the field with the same variables because something is always different. All other variables being equal, the fact that it’s a Tuesday and not a Monday, for example, could affect the results because one of the participants had a lousy Monday but is having a great Tuesday. This person’s interactions with others will be different which could impact the results.

  8. Pingback: Personnel/ Personal Ethics in Qualitative Methods [Jim] | Qualitative Methods

  9. Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?
    One project in which I used triangulation was the Arvin High School project. Data was collected from archival sources; CST scores, block schedules, lesson plans, curriculum samples, etc. Data was also collected from teacher and student surveys and from classroom observations. More data could have been collected through the use of focus group interviews if time had permitted. It was a great introduction into field based research.
    Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out? At this time I have not had to use mutuality in any projects.
    Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded. A possible unit of study that is bounded could be farm workers in the San Joaquin valley. A unit of study that would not be considered bounded is people who eat fresh fruit from the farm.

    • Those are great sources of data for triangulation! It would have been good to have had time to collect interview data to enhance the triangulation and get a more in depth look at the those members of the Arvin High community. The interviews could have confirmed some of the results from your other data and might have provided some of the reasoning as well.

  10. Conducting research in the field would allow for more complete answers, in depth understanding and a context for the research gathered. This would not be able to take place in a lab. We have used triangulation in the field study project of Arvin High School. We used observation data, survey data, and CST scores. We also used benchmark assessments. The challenge with this utilizing all of this data was the time involved in the study. We were on such a time crunch it was difficult to complete the study effectively. I have not used mutuality in my field study experiences as of yet. I would think it would allow for ease of entry into a study and would be beneficial in building buy in by key stakeholders. A bounded unit of study would be high school students in California taking AP courses. This group is concentrated in one area and one group. An unbounded unit of study would be a group of people who surf the internet for job opportunities. Going into the field cold would be beneficial in that not having any preconceived notions of the field or group your are studying. Allows less time to become bias. I equate it to studying a cumulative folder of a student prior to working with the student in your classroom. The less you know can be beneficial at times. If I was witness to something immoral during field study work I would document it, if it was relevant to the study. If I felt the study was compromised because of the behavior then I would contact the person who gave me entry and conclude the study and document why I was concluding the study. I think a lot depends on what is happening and how relevant it is to the study. Does it compromise the study and myself or not?

  11. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory?

    In response to this question, I feel one of the main benefits of doing research in the field is the authenticity of being in the field, observing, interacting. Although maintaining objectivity would be harder in the field than in a lab, I think being in the field provides researchers with more insight.

  12. What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory?

    The benefit of field research is that the researcher is able to experience the real-life, contextual experience of the study participants just as the participants do. The researcher gets to see through the eyes of the participants and walk a mile in their shoes, so to speak. The environment is natural and not contrived. It is unpredictable, just as life is.

    Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?

    The College Readiness project used multiple data sources. We started out with quantitative data from the CSU data warehouse on the college readiness rates of area high schools. From there, working with math experts, we developed and administered an email survey of high school math teachers and department chairs, and a separate survey for high school counselors and administrators (principals). Thirdly, we observed a math intervention class as unobtrusive observers to see how students experience a college math remediation course. From that class observation, we also interviewed 7 students and have scheduled interviews with the morning instructor and the afternoon instructor, as well as their tutors.

    Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out?

    Yes! In response to interview questions, one of the students I interviewed stated that she graduated from a local high school, is a biology major, and her career goal is to become a dentist. I mentioned to her that my brother graduated from a local high school, went to Harvard Dental school, now oversees multiple naval dental clinics in Southern California, and returns home to Bakersfield twice a month to perform oral surgeries because there is a shortage of oral surgeons locally. I arranged for her to shadow him during an oral surgery last week.

    Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.

    A bounded study would be the observation of the Early Start math classes. An unbounded study could be of eyeglass wearers.

    What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?

    One of the benefits is that you get to study the unrehearsed “real deal” as opposed to prepared, staged, unnatural behavior that could defeat the purpose of the contextual study. Conducting someone ahead of time could result in a Hawthorne Effect where study participants act differently because they are aware they are being studied.

    As an ethnographer you are supposed to have cultural relativism, but what do you do when you find maybe a practice done by a group unacceptable or immoral in your opinion?

    I guess that would be like me, as an African American, doing an ethnographic study on the KKK or a female conducting a study in a male-dominated environment. I think the key to being able to conduct research in such environments is to harness Angosino’s statement that all culture is meaningful and useful and to divorce my personal values and judgement from the research. At the same time, it also is important to be honest with the scope of research that can conducted effectively and the quality of the results that can be obtained. If study participants’ behavior and responses are not genuine, and they are giving responses just to get a reaction out of the researcher, for example, then the study is useless.

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