What is Ethnographic Research? Ethnographic research is an attempt to obtain a holistic picture as possible of a particular society, group, institution, setting or situation. There are a variety of approaches used in this type of research. The key tools are all ethnographic studies are in-depth interviewing and on-going participant observation of a situation. The emphasis is on documenting and portraying the individual experiences of individuals by observing them or by interview in order to get the “whole picture.”
Ethnographic Concepts These are needed to guide the researcher in making his work and reaching conclusions which are: Culture – according to behaviorists it is the sum of the social group’s observable pattern of behavior, customs and way of life. It is also the logical cohesive pattern in the myriad often ritualistic behavior and ideas of a group The interpretation of culture is considered by many a primary contribution of ethnographic research
Holistic perspective In conducting research, one must consider the important background of the subject such as social structure, beliefs, politics, symbols, rituals and the environment Developing a holistic example demands that the researcher spends a great time out in the field gathering all kinds of data.
Contextualization This is a process in which the data should fit the background of the findings. For example a school administrator recommended the termination of an after school tutoring project because of low attendance at 50% it was found out that 50% was a good figure since the students who attended were those who failed in the lessons.
“Emic” perspective This is called the “insider’s” perspective. Behaviors can be easily understood by researchers if they are in the “inside” of the research area. There are what is called “multiple realities” which are allowed to be seen by the subject.
Thick Description When researchers prepare their reports they engage in thick description which involves describing things that hey have seen and heard in the field. In thick description thick detail is mentioned
Number checking A major objective of ethnographic research is to represent as accurately as possible an emic perspective of reality. This is done by number checking in which the participants review what the researchers have written to check for accuracy and completeness
Non-judgmental orientation Here the researchers do their best to refrain from making value judgment about the unfamiliar practices. Though none of us can be completely neutral, we must guard against the most obvious biases.
Do Ethnographic Researchers Use Concepts?
Topics that can use ethnographic research Those by their very nature defy quantification i.e. Interaction of students and teachers in classroom discussion Those that can be best understood in their natural rather than artificial state Those involving study of formal organization in their totality i.e. Schools, school districts, etc. Those that involve study of activity i.e. Classes, athletic teams, administrative units, etc. Those that involve study of individuals or groups over time. i.e. Changes of student attitudes, reading programs, school programs, etc. Those that study behaviors and roles. i.e. Attitude of school newly-hired teachers, new students, etc.
Data Collection in Ethnographic Research Sampling No researcher however can sample everything and can only observe a segment of the population He has to make a representative of the population.
Data Analysis in Ethnographic Research Some researchers propose hypotheses to predict results in advance. But rather they should address it with an open-ended problem. i.e. What is the attitude of first-year students in this school Descriptions should be better described as portrayals and data collected should include dedtailed prose descriptions. The researchers aim to paint of a portrait of a school or classroom as thoroughly as possible
Data analysis Triangulation – find a common quality in the subject Pattern – common ways how people behave or think Key events – these occur in every social group that generate information Visual representation – maps, charts, photographs Statistics – frequencies, modes, medians, average
Advantages and Disadvantages Advantages – actual behavior is revealed; causes of development can be obtained; researchers can see things in their natural state, not artificial or contrived. Disadvantages – takes too much time; expensive; hard to digest “thick data,” it is impossible to make an absolute generalization when one is just studying a sample; there maybe defects in the validity of the conclusions; the bias of the researcher remains
Main Parts of Ethnographic Research “Dumping Ground or Effective Alternative” Abstract Purpose Justification Definition Assumption Review of related literature/prior research Method and data collection Body/ sample collection Results Interpretation/Analysis/cause and effects Conclusion Recommendation/s