Angrosino, M. V. (2005). Projects in Ethnographic Research. Waveland Press.
Ethnography and the Analysis of Archived Material
Ethnographers define archived materials as records stored for research, service, and other official or unofficial purposes by researchers, service agencies, and other groups (Angrosino, 2005). Materials or data are usually stored in the format in which they were collected.
Examples of archived materials:
- Municipal, state, or other government records
- Church records
- Census, tax, and voting lists
- Records of human services
- Court proceedings and arrest records
- Local group meeting minutes
- Copies of old newspapers, magazines, flyers, etc.
- Collection of photos, letters, or other memorabilia
- Formal museums
Secondary data is information collected by researchers for other purposes than what they were originally intended for. This type of archived data may also be useful in ethnographic research. The best known and used ethnographic database is the Human Relations File, which includes information pertaining to 360 cultures. Archival research is nonreactive research because of the lack of direct contact that the researcher has with those being studied. It is recommended that the use of archival materials include other ethnographic data collection methods.
Presenting Your Findings
In his final chapter, Angrosino (2005) reviews the key concepts from previous chapters. They are as follows:
- Identify a social setting that makes for a reasonable, feasible “unit of analysis” for ethnographic study;
- Come up with a meaningful explanation (formative theory) of a useful and interesting aspect of culture that can be effectively studied in that setting;
- Conduct an honest review of your own strengths and weaknesses as a researcher;
- Devise a plan for keeping and retrieving notes from the field;
- “See through the eyes of an ethnographer” by conducting both unobstrusive and participant observational studies in your selected setting;
- Ask probing questions that help people in your setting reconstruct their histories and/or reflect on issues of current concern;
- Access and make sense of archived material pertinent to the history and/or current circumstances of your community and its people. (pp. 61-62)
Ethnographic data collection skills:
- Locating and analyzing archived materials
Further process remains:
- Dissemination of knowledge gained from research
- Communicate information and insight to a larger audience
Multiple ways to report findings:
- Written Report, Article (most widely recognized standard of reporting findings)
- Panel Discussion
- Museum Exhibit
Angrosino (2005) concludes his chapter by stating that “ethnography helps us learn about culture, and an important part of culture is how people communicate; learning how to convey information should therefore be an integral part of what you do as an ethnographic researcher” (p. 64).
Possible Discussion Questions:
- Why are archived materials useful?
- Why is the examination process of archived materials important?
- Describe a project where you have utilized all or some of the ethnographic research steps.
- If you were told you could not use the traditional method for reporting your findings (written report), what other option would you choose and why?
- Which component of ethnographic research do you find to be the most challenging and why?