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.
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.
- 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?
- How can the group be bounded?
- 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?
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:
- Able to think conceptually
- Culturally sensitive
- What are the benefits of doing research in the field rather than in a laboratory?
- Describe a project or fieldwork experience where you used triangulation. What methods of data collection did you employ?
- Have you had to use mutuality in any projects or fieldwork you have done? How was this carried out?
- Give an example of a unit of study that is bounded and one that would not be considered bounded.
- What are the benefits of going into the field “cold” versus contacting someone ahead of time?
- 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?