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Ethnography and Ethnographic Research Angie Castillo, Michelle Gorospe, Meg Gregory, Christie Hartmann and Matt LeVan.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethnography and Ethnographic Research Angie Castillo, Michelle Gorospe, Meg Gregory, Christie Hartmann and Matt LeVan."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethnography and Ethnographic Research Angie Castillo, Michelle Gorospe, Meg Gregory, Christie Hartmann and Matt LeVan

2 Ethnography What is it? Where did it come from?

3 Definitions of Ethnography - 1 “the name of the attempt to reconstruct the history of culture” (25). – A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Anthropologist Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. Method in Social Anthropology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1958. Photo from

4 Definitions of Ethnography - 2 “The modern concept of ethnography is ‘getting out among the subjects of enquiry’ in such a way that their perspective is engaged” (49). - Professor Lee Harvey Harvey, Lee. Myths of the Chicago School of Sociology. Brookfield: Avebury, 1987. Photo source:

5 Definitions of Ethnography - 3 “The exclusive and immediate goal of ethnography, as of all social research, is to produce knowledge” (15). - Professor Martyn Hammersley Hammersley, Martyn. “Ethnography and the disputes over validity.” Debates and Developments in Ethnographic Methodology. Ed. Geoffrey Walford 6 (2002): 7-22. Photo source: profile.php?staff_id=933470

6 Definitions of Ethnography - 4 “As a noun, it means a description of a culture, or a piece of culture. As a verb (doing ethnography), it means the collection of data that describe a culture” (16- 17). – H. Russell Bernard, Ph.D. Cultural anthropologist Bernard, H. R. Research Methods in Anthropology. Thousand Oaks: Sage Pub, 2004. Photo source:

7 Phenomenology: the early roots of ethnography Edmund Husserl (1859- 1938) developed the philosophical ideal called “phenomenology” Finding meaning through human experience “Good ethnography…is usually good phenomenology” (Bernard 15).

8 The Chicago School Participant observation Case Studies

9 Qualitative vs. Quantitative Case study Participant observation Sense making Statistics Surveys Data analysis

10 Where we are now… Traditionally qualitative methods, such as case studies, are being re-designed with quantitative elements. New methods that integrate both quantitative and qualitative techniques, such as grounded theory, have been developed Ethnographic Research Methods are implemented not only in academic settings, but also in commercial enterprise

11 References Bernard, H. R. Research Methods in Anthropology. Thousand Oaks: Sage Pub, 2004. Hammersley, Martyn. “Ethnography and the disputes over validity.” Debates and Developments in Ethnographic Methodology. Ed. Geoffrey Walford 6 (2002): 7-22. Harvey, Lee. Myths of the Chicago School of Sociology. Brookfield: Avebury, 1987. Radcliffe-Brown, A.R. Method in Social Anthropology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1958. Rosenthal, Robert and Ralph L. Rosnow. Essentials of Behavioral Research: methods and analysis. 3 rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Weingand, Darlene E. "Grounded Theory and Qualitative Methodology," IFLA Journal 19 (1993): 17-26. White, Marilyn D. and Emily E. Marsh "Content Analysis: A Flexible Methodology," Library Trends 55:1 (Summer 2006): 22-45. Yin, Robert K. "The Case Study as a Serious Research Strategy," Knowledge, Creation, diffusion, Utilization 3:1 (Sept. 1981): 97-114.

12 Ethnography: Research Methods “A research method located in the practice of both sociologists and anthropologists, and which should be regarded as the product of a cocktail of methodologies that share the assumption that personal engagement with the subject is the key to understanding a particular culture or social setting.” The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods (2006)

13 Research Perspectives Emic vs. Etic Macro vs. Micro Covert vs. overt

14 Common Methods Field research Participant observation Case studies Focus groups

15 Field Research Theory of field research – Inductive – Grounded Theory Most commonly participant observation.

16 Participant Observation “Participant observation combines participation in the lives of the people under study with the maintenance of a professional distance that allows adequate observation and recording of data (Fetterman 45).”

17 Complete participant – Observer is wholly concealed and the research objectives are unknown to the group that is being observed. – Observer goal is to become a member of group under observation. – While this method gives the observer greater insight into the observed group, it also poses several methodological problems Participant observation - complete participant

18 Participant observation: participant-as-observer Participant-as-observer – Group being observed is informed of research agenda – Researcher still attempts to become member of observed group – More ethically sound than complete participation

19 Case Studies: exploratory, explanatory and descriptive In-depth analysis of an individual or a group of people with shared characteristics. Often includes personal accounts directly from the participants. Draws conclusions only about that participant or group and only in that specific context. Research emphasis is placed on exploration and description.

20 Focus Groups Concentrated group exploration and discussions. What can be gained from the focus group method? Method is qualitative but the information gathered can be quantitative.

21 References Agar, Michael H. The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. Academic Press, 1980. Berg, Bruce L. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon. Fetterman, David M. Ethnography: Step by Step. SAGE Publications, 1989. Franklin, Billy J. Research Methods: Issues and Insights. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1971. Rosenthal, Robert and Ralph L. Rosnow. Essentials of Behavioral Research: methods and analysis. 3 rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007.

22 Advantages In Ethnographic Research

23 Disadvantages In Ethnographic Research

24 Qualitative information must be: Gathered Organized Interpreted Disseminated Errors and mistakes can occur at any stage. (Rosenthal 127)

25 Time Fieldwork often time consuming (and therefore can be expensive) Data collecting can last months or even years. For example, Margaret Mead’s spent a year in Samoa conducting research for her famous work, Coming of Age in Samoa (Rosenthal 124)

26 Financial Some ethnographic methods can be costly The Focus Group “a group discussion that concentrates on particular issues or a basic question or problem” Discussion guided by a moderator who is compensated Participants may be compensated (Rosenthal 167)

27 Loss of Privacy Observation can cause informants to feel self-conscious and/or to act unnaturally Informants can be sensitive to their perceived loss of privacy; can become “increasingly selective” in cooperating with researchers. (Rosenthal 125)

28 Flexible/Credible “maximize credibility and not sacrifice flexibility” Journals editors require detailed descriptions of procedures used in data collection Much preparation, research required into culture to be observed in order to prevent reliance on stereotypes “Courting serendipity: planned insights married to unplanned events ” (Fine and Deegan, qt in Rosenthal 126) The right place at the right time

29 Flexible/Credible cont. Fieldwork journal, ethnographer’s diary of observations, mistakes, experiences, problems etc., including P.O.’s personal reactions (Spradley, 1980, qt. in Rosenthal 127) P.O.’s can work in teams, imposing “checks and balances” to try to control for observation and interpretation biases Use of audio/video recordings (Rosenthal 125-7)

30 Noninteractional Artifacts “Systematic errors that operate…in the mind, in the eye, or in the hand of the scientist but are not due to uncontrolled variables that might interact with the subjects’ behavior.” Rosenthal, 1966 (qt. in Rosenthal 128 ) Clever Hans Hawthorne Effect

31 Clever Hans - Super Horse! Clever Hans - a horse whose owner claimed it was capable of intellectual reasoning, i.e. tapping out answers to simple math problems German psychologist, Oskar Pfungst devised a series of experiments to test the horse’s capabilities Discovered Clever Hans was responding to questioners’ unintentional subtle clues such as body language, i.e. leaning in and squaring up (Rosenthal 217)

32 Hawthorne Effect “Human subjects behave in special ways because they know they are subjects of an investigation” Hawthorne Works of the Western Electric Co. Cicero, Illinois Different conditions (dimmed lights, increased rest periods) did not decrease production, actually increased it “Motivated to increase their output because of their special status as research participants” (Rosenthal 218)

33 Hawthorne’s Confounding Variable H. McIlvaine Parsons (1974) Workers were informed of output rates - increased production rates meant increased workers’ wages (!) Increased productivity was also reinforced by feedback about output rates Researchers cautioned to consider how they might affect informants behavior (Rosenthal 218-9)

34 Interpreter Bias “refers to the systematic errors that occur during the interpretation- of-data phase of the research process” Racial Differences in IQ Research - Sherwood/Nataupsky (1968) Studied the effect of investigators’ personal background with regard to their evaluation of IQ tests given to blacks and whites Conclusion: it was possible, “statistically to discriminate particular conclusions reached by the investigators studied.” (Rosenthal 128)

35 Observer Bias “ refers to systematic errors in the observation or recording phase of research” “Our assumptions define and limit what we see, i.e. we tend to see things in such a way that they will fit in with our assumptions even if this involves distortions or omissions.” M.L. Johnson, biologist (1953) (Rosenthal 129)

36 N Rays gone awry Cautionary tale of observer bias: Andre Blondlot Early 20th century french physicist, Blondlot claimed the discovery of N rays, but no one could successfully replicate his findings… During a demonstration, N rays were “observed,” despite suspicious physicist R.W. Wood “surreptitiously” having removed the essential prism from Blondlot’s experimental apparatus. There were no N rays. :( (Rosenthal 129)

37 Confidentiality As anonymity is usually not possible with qualitative research methods, P.O.s must seek to protect informants by adhering to strict confidentiality standards. Use of psuedonyms, removing identifying details (SSN etc.) and employing careful record keeping (Powell 181)

38 Alfred C. Kinsey Kinsey’s work in gathering data for Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) has garnered much criticism. Kinsey kept sources’ identities’ confidential, including pedophiles He was and is still criticized for not reporting those sources to proper authorities creaction Photo:

39 References and further reading Powell, Ronald and Lynn Silipigni Connaway. Basic Research Methods for Librarians. 4th ed. Westport, Cn: Libraries Unlimited. 2004. Rosenthal, Robert and Ralph Rosnow. Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw Hill. 2008. Feynman, R. P. (1999). The Pleasure of finding things out. Cambridge, MA: Perseus. Fine, G. A. & Deegan, J. G. (1996). Three principles of Serendip: Insight, chance, and discovery in qualitative research. Qualitative Studies in Education, 9, 434-447. Parsons, H. M. (1978). What caused the Hawthorne effect? A scientific detective story. Administration and Society, 10, 259-283. Pfungst, O. Clever Hans (The Horse of Mr. Von Osten). New York: Henry Holt. (Reissued 1965 by Holt, New York, with introduction by R. Rosenthal) Rosenthal, R. (1966). Experimenter effects in behavioral research. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts. Sherwood, J. J., & Nataupsky, M. (1968). Predicting the conclusions of Negro-white intelligence research from biographical characteristics of the investigator. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 53-58. Spradley, J. P. (1980). Participant observation. New York: Holt.


41 1. Respect for individuals 2. Benefits research 3. Justice

42 1. Valid research designs 2. Competent researchers 3. Identification of negative consequences 4. Randomly selected participants 5. Voluntary participation 6. Compensation for injury (Sieber 1992: qtd in Denzin, p. 270) *See Research Methods in the Social Sciences (pp. 80-5).

43 Informed Consent Privacy/Confidentiality Covert Research?

44 Informed Consent Federal Guidelines 1) Fair explanation of the procedures to be followed and their purposes; 2) Description of the attendant discomforts and risks reasonably to be expected; 3) Description of the benefits reasonably to be expected; 4) Disclosure of the appropriate alternative procedures that might be advantageous to the participant; 5) An offer to answer inquiries concerning the procedures; 6) An instruction that the person is free to withdraw consent and to discontinue participation in the project at any time without prejudicing the status of the participant. (Frankfort-Nachmias and Nachmias 2008: 75)

45 Informed Consent

46 Three dimensions of privacy: 1)Sensitivity 2)Setting 3) Dissemination Anonymity versus Confidentiality

47 What about covert research? APA’s Ethical principles for research with human participants (1982): E. Methodological requirements of a study may make the use of concealment or deception necessary. Before conducting such a study, the investigator has a special responsibility to 1) determine whether the use of such techniques is justified by the study’s prospective scientific, educational, or applied value; 2) determine whether alternative procedures are available that do not use concealment or deception; and 3) ensure that the participants are provided with sufficient explanation as soon as possible. (Rosenthal and Rosnow 2008: 66)

48 Risks Subject No informed consent Feelings of betrayal Exploitation Investigator Retaliation Illegal behavior Forming relationships

49 Whose rights are more important?

50 Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) Why they are necessary – APA (American Psychological Association) – APS (Association for Psychological Science) How they do it: the “cost-utility approach.”

51 The IRB Review Process and the Social Sciences The unique nature of each study Influence of biomedicine Suggestions: Increase social scientist participation. Educate IRB members. Explore new ways of review.

52 Urie Bronfenbrenner (1952)

53 References Bosk, Charles L. and Raymond G. De Vries, “Bureaucracies of Mass Deception: Institutional Review Boards and the Ethics of Ethnographic Research,” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 595 (September 2004): 249-63 [journal online], accessed 11 October 2008. Calvey, David, “The Art and Politics of Covert Research: Doing ‘Situated Ethics’ in the Field,” Sociology 42, no. 5 (2008): 905-18 [journal online], accessed 11 October 2008. Davies, Charlotte Aull, Reflexive Ethnography: A guide to researching selves and others. 2 nd ed. London: Routledge, 2008. Denzin, Norman K. Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21 st Century. Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1997. Fine, Gary Alan, “Ten Lies of Ethnography: Moral Dilemmas of Field Research,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 22, no. 3 (October 1993): 267-94. Fluehr-Lobban, Carolyn. “Informed Consent in Anthropological Research: We Are Not Exempt,” Ethics and the Profession of Anthropology: Dialogue for Ethically Conscious Practice. 2 nd ed. Ed. Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban. New York: Altamira-Rowman, 2003. p. 159-77. Frankfort-Nachmias, Chava and David Nachmias, Research Methods in the Social Sciences. 7 th ed. New York: Worth, 2008. Goodwin, Dawn, Catherine Pope, Maggie Mort, and Andrew Smith, “Ethics and Ethnography: An Experiential Account,” Qualitative Health Research 13, no. 4 (April 2003): 567-77 [journal online], accessed 11 October 2008. Parker, Michael, “Ethnography/ethics,” Social Science & Medicine 65 (2007): 2248-59. Powell, Ronald R. and Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Basic Research Methods for Librarians. Library and Information Science Text Series. 4 th ed. Westport: Libraries Unlimited-Greenwood, 2004. Rosenthal, Robert and Ralph L. Rosnow, Essentials of Behavioral Research: Methods and Data Analysis. 3 rd ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

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