Ethnographic Research

Edmar B. Cornejo

Ethnographic Research – (Ethnos – folk/people graphein – writing) are qualitative research procedures for describing, analyzing and interpreting a culture-sharing group’s shared patterns of behavior, beliefs and language that develop over time. Culture – central concept to ethnography. It is everything having to do with human belief

Ethnographic research would be invalid unless the observer: •Lived for a much more extensive period of time among the tribe and became an integrated member of the social group. •Learned the native language, enabling him or her to develop the sensitivity to think, feel, and interpret observations n terms of the tribe’s concepts, feelings, and values while at the same time supplementing his or her own objective judgment in interpreting observations. •Trained his or her informants to systematically record field data in their own language and cultural perspective

Steps in research cycle 1. Formulating a research problem and selecting a case. Phases of formulating research problems • The initial phase – Guided by broad research interests, the investigator collects data with a view to exploring a range of possible ideas. • The second phase – Significant classes of events and persons begin to emerge leading to reformulation of initial guiding propositions. • The third phase – The collection of data relevant to the reformulation occurs. 2. Gaining entry – involves locating a site and identifying a gatekeeper that will provide access to participant Gatekeepers – individuals who could provide formal permission to the researcher to conduct their study

4. Collecting data – involve extensive data collection, using multiple data procedures for gathering data and active involvement of the participant in the process. Fieldnote – researchers written account of what they hear, see, experience and think in the course of collecting data Participant – the ones whom data are collected. Participant Observation – long time personal involvement with those being studied including participation in their daily lives to the extent that the researcher comes to understand the culture as an insider Non Participant Observation – the observer is entirely removed from interaction with those being observe Interview – investigate in more detail if participant behave the way he is observe

Popular Forms of Data Collected by Ethnographers •Casual Conversation •Life history, life-cycle interview •Key informant (participant) interview •Observations (nonparticipant to participant •Semi structured interview •Structured interview •Survey •Household census, ethnography •Questionnaire (written and/or oral) •Projective techniques •Content analysis of secondary text or visual material •Focus group interview •Elicitation techniques (e.g., looking at a scrapbook and talking about memories) •Audiovisual material (e.g., audio or visual record, such as camera recording) •Spatial mapping (e.g, recording ways data varies across units, such as group and institution)

5. Analyzing and interpreting the data 6. Writing the ethnography

Types of Ethnographies •Realist Ethnography – an objective, scientifically written ethnography •Confessional Ethnography – a report of the ethnographer’s fieldwork experiences •Life History – study of one individual situated within the cultural context of his or her own life •Autoethnography – a reflective self-examination by an individual set within his or her cultural context. •Microethnography – a study of focused on a specific aspect of a cultural group and setting. •Ethnographic case study – a case analysis of a person, event, activity, or process set within a cultural perspective. •Critical ethnography - a study of the shared patterns of marginalized group with the aim of advocacy.

•Critical ethnography - a study of the shared patterns of marginalized group with the aim of advocacy. •Feminist ethnography – a study of women and the cultural practices that serve to disempowered and oppress them •Postmodern ethnography – an ethnography written to challenge the problems in our society that have emerged from a modern emphasis on progress and marginalizing individuals. •Ethnographic models – a fictional work focused on cultural aspects of group Three major characteristics of ethnographic research •Focus on discovering cultural patterns in human behavior. •Focus on the emic perspective of members of the culture. Focus on studying the natural setting in which culture is manifested

Criticisms on the Ethnographic Method •These methods are preliminary research models and should be more systematized to make them more scientific. •They require certain art, patience, sensitivity and humility on the part of the researcher during data gathering. •The “deeper methods” require longer time period for data collection. The reliability and scientificity of ethnographic data have been questioned by non-anthropologist

Advantages of Ethnographic Research •It provides the researcher with a much more comprehensive perspective than do other forms of educational research. •Ethnographic research lends itself well to research topics that are not easily quantified. •It is particularly appropriate to behaviors that are best understood by observing them within their natural settings. Disadvantages of Ethnographic Research •Bias is almost impossible to eliminate. •Generalizability is almost nonexistent. •Replication is impossible

Suitable topics for Ethnographic Research •Those that by very nature defy simple quantification •Those that can be best understood in a natural setting •Those that involve the study of individual or group activities over time •Those involving the study of the roles that educators play, and the behaviors associated with those roles •Those that involve the study of the activities and behavior of group as a unit. •Those involving the study of formal organizations in their totality Set of General commitments or orientations to research •The problem of understanding social action (understanding and interpretation) •The emphasis on process •The investigation of natural setting (naturalism) •The study of social phenomena in their context (holism) •The assumption that there are always multiple perspectives The use of multiple techniques, with emphasis with emphasis on participant observation and interviewing

Summary guidelines for fieldwork •Be descriptive in taking field notes •Gather a variety of information from different perspectives •Cross validate and triangulate by gathering different kinds of data •Capture participant’s views of their own experiences in their own words. •Select key informants wisely and use them carefully. Ethics in Ethnographic Research •Researchers must make their research goals clear to the members of the community where they undertake their research. •Learn whether the group would prefer to be named in the written report of the research or be given pseudonym •The research should not harm or exploit those among whom the research is done.

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