QUALITATIVE RESEARCH ETHNOGRAPHY
I. OVERVIEW • A. Ethnography--the study of specific persons or groups in their own societies & how they interact. • 1. External • a. Examines environmental, contextual, and/or cultural forces that influence our behaviors. • b. Looks at observable phenomenon & infers patterns from the data (usually through field observations). • 2. Internal • a. Understand how subjects think about their actions. • b. Usually means interacting with individuals through intensive interviews.
OVERVIEW • B. Ethnomethodology • 1. An empirical study of how individuals give sense to their daily actions. • 2. Focuses on communicating, making decisions & reasoning. • 3. May involve participant-observation techniques, as well as intensive interviews. • C. Focus groups: • 1. Group interviewing to understand attitudes & behaviors related to a specific topic. • 2. 6-12 persons interviewed simultaneously, with a moderator leading the respondents in a semi-structured discussion about the topic.
OVERVIEW • 3. Distinguishing characteristic--use of controlled group discussion. • 4. Intended to collect qualitative information, although the data may be treated qualitatively or quantitatively • D. Case studies: • 1. A type of empirical inquiry using multiple sources of evidence (or cases) to investigate a real-life phenomenon in its real-life context. • 2. Often used in medical or legal research, as well as historical or critical analyses. • 3. Includes both single cases & multiple cases (which may be used comparatively) • 4. Multiple procedures are used (no precise methodology).
II. ETHNOGRAPHY • A. ETHNOGRAPHY & ETHNOMETHODOLOGY • 1. Ethnography--1st used in anthropology to describe different cultures; now means studying how specific groups interact in their own societies. • 2. Ethnomethodology comes from sociology; it involves a study of people’s “common sense” knowledge of society & themselves, as revealed in communication & behavior (see Berger, p. 146)
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 3. Although not identical, both attempt to understand things otherwise foreign to us. • 4. Both assume that what people do is influenced by their interpretations of themselves, others & situations. • 5. Both argue that human behaviors are complex, multiple, & dependent on context. • 6. Both use “subjective” methodologies; but can also combine qualitative & quantitative methods.
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • B. GOALS & APPROACHES • 1. Focus on wide range of patterns--social roles, ethnic groups, family systems, message systems, etc. • 2. Emphasizes studying an issue or topic from the participant’s frame of reference as well as the researcher’s. • 3. Involves spending a considerable amount of time in the field (or natural, real-life settings). • 4. Uses variety of research techniques--observations, interviewing, diary keeping, analysis of existing documents, photography, audio & videotaping, etc.
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 5. Two basic approaches (which can be combined): • a. External-- • 1) Examines environmental, contextual, and/or cultural forces influencing behaviors. • 2) Looks at observable phenomenon & infers patterns from data (usually through field or participant observations). • 3) Can be a “grounded theory” approach by systematically and repeatedly gathering data. • 4) May be applied to texts as well as people (e.g. social movement studies; some media genres, etc.).
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • b. Internal-- • 1) Seeks to learn how subjects think about their actions. • 2) Usually means intensive interviewing of individuals. • C. Other current approaches: • 1. Qualitative conversational analysis & case study analysis (see below). • 2. Critical ethnography--serves the purposes of social justice, emancipation & empowerment (borrows theories & methods from critical analysis).
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 3. Autoethnography--the researcher examines his/her own life experiences as someone doing fieldwork, recognizing his/her subjectivity. • 4. Performance ethnography • a. Looks at how people perform (or enact) culture . • b. Focus not just on what people say, but also what they do, such as various ritual behaviors, etc., and how they understand those rituals. • c. Can also look at texts or other artifacts.
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • D. GUIDELINES FOR ETHNOGRAPHY • 1. First, define a problem & develop RQs. • 2. From a review of literature (or other archival data), develop a theoretical model. • a. Typicality of behavior • b. Expected behavior & routines • 3. Decide if will do observations, conduct interviews, or both. • 4. Select either a group to observe or a sample to interview or analyze (or both).
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 5. Determine population & sample: • a. Purposive sampling can be used to find interview subjects; can also call for volunteers, or use network sampling. • b. Test eligibility of sample through short interviews and/or screener questionnaires. • c. Initial respondents called key informants. • d. Total number chosen depends on your goals--done when hit “pay dirt” (the interviews are beginning to repeat information, etc.).
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 6. Determine setting for observations & interviews. • a. On site at respondent’s job or home. • b. A neutral spot away from the field of action. • c. On-site preferred, but sometimes need a neutral spot to ensure honesty & confidentiality. • 7. Conduct observations and/or interviews; collect data, make fieldnotes (from scratch or head notes)
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 8. Develop an empirical model (for assessing & comparing data). • 9. Analyze data, depending on if doing an observation or an interview. • a. Usually use qualitative discourse analysis (DA) and/or critical approaches. • 1) Descriptive • 2) Comparative • b. Can also use quantitative content or discourse analysis
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • c. Organize data to make sense of it. • 1) Each piece of information is coded, with the source identified. • 2) Data sorted into a preliminary category system, suggested by the data and/or prior research or theory. • 3) Many ways to sort—from making multiple copies & cutting them apart for physical sorting, to using software to organize qualitative data. • 4) Can refine categories with multiple passes through the data • We’ll be coming back to these concepts later
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 9. Final reports less formal & objective than scientific reports (see chp. 9). • a. Use narrative logic to create realistic stories. • b. Provide vivid portraits & detailed descriptions, using metaphors & analogies to help express patterns. • c. An ethnographer may use a “confessional” style, esp. if using authoethnography.
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • E. Basic characteristics of observations: • 1. Observations study real people in action • 2. Observations should move from general to specific: • a. Descriptive or impressionistic observations • b. More specific, selected observations
Ethnography, con’t. • F. Participant Observation • 1. Value is that researchers have “been there & done that” • 2. Success requires several conditions: • a. tolerance for marginality (occupy liminal space) • b. Ability for embodiment of self in scene • c. Spontaneous decision-making • d. Being an ethical person • e. Understanding difference
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 3. Must determine role of the researcher: • a. Will researcher be an outside observer or a participant observer, whether full or part-time? • b. Outside observers have more “objectivity” in recording data, but potential insights are limited • c. Participant observers involved as completely as possible, recording notes unobtrusively. • d. Outside observers (or passive participant observers) don’t interact with the observed (may employ one-way mirrors or other covert methods like eavesdropping).
Ethnography, con’t. • 4. Gold’s four “master roles” • a. Complete participants • 1) Recognized members of a scene • 2) Not seen as researchers (undercover)--operate under pretense & deception • 3) May be the only way to gain access to certain scenes or groups • 4) Raises practical & ethical concerns, as well as danger of “going native” • Examples: The Cocktail Waitress;Nickel and Dimed
Ethnography, con’t. • b. Participant-as-observer • 1) Openly acknowledgement of role • 2) Status with others shapes participation • 3) Informed reciprocity occurs • 4) Similar to Adler & Adler’s Active-member & Complete-members (focused on social functions) • c. Observer-as-participant • 1) Mostly observes, but still interacts casually and/or indirectly • 2) Balances familiarity with detachment • 3) Tend to favor interviewing • 4) similar to Adler & Adler’s Peripheral-member
Ethnography, con’t. • d. Complete-observers • 1) Remotely observe scene • 2) Risks become solipsistic • 3) Fare best in free-access settings encouraging anonymity (e.g. crowds, websites) • 5. Two basic types of observations: • a. Must decide if overt or covert. • b. Overt observations raise issues of bias & error, whereas covert observations often raise ethical questions.
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 6. Researcher immerses him/herself into the context. • a. Depends on a bracketing process. • 1) “Bracket out” preconceptions, etc. • 2) “Bracket out” data as get it • 3) Can also approach topic with “informed innocence.” • b. However, if doing ethnomethodology, may engage in deliberate upsetting of established routines to reveal rules used to organize experiences.
Ethnography, con’t. • c. Some Basic Steps • 1) Tactical observing • 2) Who are the actors? Names, statuses, interactions, etc.? • 3) Where & when do actors interact? • a) Markers—interactional behaviors that signify relationships (e.g. lovers holding hands) • b) Tie signs—material artifacts & symbols indicating relationships (e.g. rings, strollers, etc.) • 4) Noting significant events
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 7. Data collection is important: • a. Must take careful field notes: • 1) Scratch & “head” notes • 2) Immediate records—recorded as soon as can, as factually & objectively as possible • a) Basic rule—10 double spaced pages for every hour of observation • b) Create chronological record that preserves “situated character of observed communication” (L & T, p. 158) • c) Need to note the who, what, where, when & how—can wait on the why
Ethnography, con’t. • 3) Reflective log observations—more subjective interpretations after time has passed (a journal and/or diary) • b. Can have participants also keep logs or diaries to add to notes • c. Can use recorders or cameras (with permission) to help with memory • d. Need to consider how these things also construct the events that are recorded
Ethnography, con’t • G. Advantages of ethnography • 1. Studies people in “real life” settings, doing ordinary tasks, etc. (so has a type of ecological validity). • 2. Provides data rich in detail & subtlety (“thick descriptions”). • 3. Provides access to groups otherwise difficult to observe or examine. • 4. Relatively inexpensive method, although expenses mount if use several observers, use specialized equipment (e.g. cameras), and/or travel
ETHNOGRAPHY, CON’T. • 5. Can be used to define basic background information necessary to frame a hypothesis. • H. Disadvantages • 1. Problem with issues of external or ecological validity; can work in teams to enhance ecological/external validity • 2. Researcher bias may favor certain interpretations over others. • 3. May suffer from reactivity--the very process of being observed may influence the behavior under study. • 4. Very time-consuming to do well.