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Soc 3307a Ethnographic Studies and Other Types of Field Research

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1 Soc 3307a Ethnographic Studies and Other Types of Field Research

2 Types of field research
Ethnography, ethnomethodology, phenomenological studies, grounded theory studies are all different variants of what is called field research in sociology Often field research is a combination of two or more approaches, done along with interviewing. Case studies may also be done.

3 Ethnography A way of building an understanding the culture and behaviours of a group as a whole. Done in a setting or field site where a group of people share a common culture. In sociology, ethnography usually called a field study Uses: Participant Observation Interviews with Informants Examination of documents and cultural artifacts

4 Ethnography... Is associated with studying the natural setting.
Has its roots in cultural anthropology, whereby the researcher examines a group’s observable and learned patterns of behaviour, customs, and ways of life by getting involved in the day-to-day lives of the people or by interviewing one-on-one members of a group. Can be used to study of ethnic collectivities. Used to study how members of ethnic groups identify themselves, how they give meaning to their ethno-cultural identity and how it has changed across generations.

5 Changes in Ethnographic Research
Tedlock (2000) identifies various genres in ethnographic history Life history – “representative” individual stands for a culture Memoir – “a corner of author’s own life” Narrative Ethnography – hybrid of biography (life history) and personal memoir – includes ethnographic “novels” that combine “internal textual accuracy with external cultural accuracy” and literary ethnographies (fictive works) Tell-all ethnographic diaries New trend for ethnography to become more critical and emancipatory moving from “participant observation to the observation of participation” (Tedlock)

6 Changes (cont.) Feminism has had a democratizing influence to “co-produced ethnographic knowledge” Trend: “critical interactive self-other dialogue” See Tedlock’s Ethnography and Ethnographic Representation (2000) in supplementary readings New Ethnography (Berg) - detailed examination of people and their social discourses and the various outcomes of their actions. “Extensive fieldwork of various types including participant observation, formal and informal interviewing, document collecting, filming, recording and so on.”

7 Ethnomethodology The study of commonsense knowledge
How do individuals make sense of social situations and act on their knowledge? What are the tacit rules used by members of a culture? Detailed studies of interactions Breeching experiments (Garfinkel) To uncover hidden norms

8 Phenomenological Study
Understanding an experience from a research participant's point of view Interview several participants as to their perceptions of an experience Try to build a picture of the experience through using a combination of theories, literature in the area, illustrated by anecdotes, to build a detailed portrait of the experience Use of Max Weber’s “verstehen” Example: Grace Pike’s Phenomenological Reflections on the Failing Grade (handout)

9 Grounded Theory Study Def’n: The systematic generation of theory from data Is an “experiential” methodology Theories are empirically grounded into the data. Data collection and analysis are combined. Cycle – observe data, modify theory, observe data based on theory An “inductive” theory building process Developed 1960’s by Barney Glaser, Anselm Strauss (1968) Often used for clinical sociology An important methodological breakthrough

10 Grounded Theory (cont.)
Main assumptions (Glaser and Strauss): Social life integrated and patterned All actions integrated with other actions Can discover pattern categories within which the action is integrated All social action is multivariate Inductive vs. deductive is an oversimplification of complex thinking processes (i.e. thinking up hypotheses actually an inductive process)

11 Validity in Field Research
Problematic because of investigator subjectivity Can counteract by: using multiple sources of evidence, establishing a chain of evidence as in a grounded theory study and having a draft case study report reviewed by key informants (Yin, 1994)

12 Preparing for the field:
Become familiar with the people being studied argot (specialized language) Background preparation and literature review important first step Talking to potential informants Look for referrals Plan how to gain entry into the group Gatekeepers Public vs. private settings

13 Tips to Gain Entry Identify and befriend a gatekeeper
Seek out guides and informants you should learn who the “important” people are that can help you or hinder your research. How can they help you? How can they hinder/influence your research? Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

14 Becoming Invisible Researcher presence without causing undue group interference. Dangers of invisibility Intentional misidentification Accidental misidentification Learning more than you want to know Guilty knowledge Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

15 Getting Acclimated Take in the physical setting
Develop relationships with inhabitants Track, observe, eavesdrop and ask questions Locate subgroups and group leaders Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

16 Issues “Converts” (going ‘native’) vs. “double agents” (Tedlock, 2000)
Ambient Danger Dangerous research settings Situational Danger Danger is triggered by researcher’s presence Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

17 Field Notes Narrative accounts of what goes on in the lives of study subjects Verbal Exchanges Practices you observe Connections you see Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

18 Field note-taking... Create detailed accounts of observation of behaviour, conversations. You do this at various points throughout…. Cryptic Notes: brief notes, statements, unusual terms, sketches. Detailed Notes: right after your observation, include texture, sensation, color and minutiae Analytic Notes: your own ideas, comments, application of theories to what you observed. Self-reflective notes: your personal observations and emotions

19 Strategies for Recollection
Record key words and key phrases while in the field Make notes about the sequence of events Limit the time you remain in the setting Write the full notes immediately after exiting the field Write notes before sharing thoughts with others Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

20 A Note on Reflexivity: Acknowledging that your own subjectivity is part of the research and can influence outcome. In ethnography, reflexivity is not only encouraged, it is demanded. You must have a “dialogue” about not only what you know, but how you come to know –how did you arrive to your interpretations, and disclose that in your writing.

21 Initial analysis of field notes
Typologies- classify similar events, actions, and people into discrete groupings, by how they share similar “culture” in setting. After having spent time in the field, look for patterns, similarities, and divide them into groupings that are exhaustive, mutually exclusive and have a significant meaning for differentiation. Go back into the field and use your typology for further observation

22 Sociograms Graphic displays of relationships among people you are observing in the field Positive peer nominations Negative peer nominations Copyright © Allyn & Bacon 2010

23 Advantages of ethnography and other types of field research
High external validity Can study nonverbal behaviour Flexibility Natural environment Longitudinal analysis Relatively inexpensive

24 Disadvantages of field research
Time consuming Not applicable to investigation of large social settings Low internal validity (lack of control) Biases, attitudes, and assumptions of the researcher Selective perception and memory Selectivity in data collection Presence of the researcher may change the system or group being studied Virtually impossible to replicate the findings

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