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Essay 3: The Ethnographic Essay
 

Essay 3: The Ethnographic Essay

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  • Students can run into several problems with this assignment:They’ll choose a subculture to which they already belong because it’s most convenient for them. This limits their ability to analyze the strands of the culture, to see certain features as significant in the way an outsider can.They’ll focus on simply describing what they see and hear without moving into reflecting on what it means, what it tells us about the subculture. Often, students don’t quite know how to “see” a subculture, so they need time to understand how to do that. The activities and readings in this chapter will help them.They won’t manage their time well for interviews and observations.They will choose a focus that is too broad.Given these common problems, design your assignment to mitigate a few of them by following the suggestions in this chapter, as well as allowing enough time to complete the field research.
  • Refer back to the chapter readings as you present examples of how these characteristics are reflected in ethnographic essays.
  • A visual representation of what is in the textbook.
  • This slide introduces the methods of generating ideas and emphasizes the key questions students need to ask themselves as they are generating ideas.
  • Consider the sidebar “Researching Trends and Subcultures on the Web”: students will find a list of sources on the web they can use for either finding ideas for an ethnographic essay or doing research on it.
  • Now that students have a lot of material, they need guidance for narrowing down to a manageable topic. If you are having students write during class (the journal prompts, for example, or clustering), then you can use this slide to guide them as they narrow down to a promising subject. This point in the process is important to emphasize in class so that students choose subjects that are not only manageable, but ones about which they have not made up their mind or know much about.Once students have chosen a subculture to study with a manageable focus, assign them the following activities:Do the fastwriting prompts listed in the chapter.Discuss, in small groups, what they’ve written.Discuss whether this subculture will work for this essay by talking through/writing about the questions under “Judging What You Have.”Draft their plan for addressing the ethical issues that may arise, using the sidebar “Ethnography and Ethics” (page 360) for suggestions. At the very least, they should draft a permission letter for participants to sign.Midway through their research, have students bring to class all the field notes and interview notes they’ve gathered so they can share these with their small group and begin some initial interpreting.
  • Students will struggle with going beyond pure description to analysis.Emphasize that it’s important for writers to keep in mind how theirsubject speaks to a larger issue that others can understand, but also not to squelch their writing by worrying about audience and purpose too soon.
  • Consider the sidebar “Questions Ethnographers Ask”: The questions listed here will be enormously helpful to students as they interpret their observations and interviews, so go over them before they begin the assignment and then spend some class time in the middle of the process. Have them fastwrite on each one and begin drawing some preliminary conclusions (or discover new areas to research).Consider as well “Ethnography and Ethics”: this sidebar addresses the ethical responsibility which researchers have toward human subjects, and it suggests guidelines for conducting ethnography.
  • Practice with Field NotesFor the next class period, practice taking field notes. Choose a site—this could be a place where the people gather in the subculture you are studying, or somewhere on campus where people tend to gather (e.g., the student union, dorm lobby, library, quad, etc.), or somewhere off campus. Record field observations using the double-entry style. (Rather than drawing a line down the middle of the page, try using opposing pages for this.) On the left side of your notebook, record specific observations. If you can overhear a conversation, try to record dialogue. Use your descriptive powers: Describe exactly what people are doing and how they are doing it, describe the scene with as much detail as possible. Make lists of these details if this helps you get them down. Draw on all your senses.On the Left SideSpecific observations of how people in the group interactSpecific observations of individuals and what exactly they’re doingFragments of distinctive language, “insider phrases,” sayings, jargonNotes of overheard conversations or from interviewsSpecific descriptions of the placeRough sketches of the layout of the spaceSpecific descriptions of objects used by the participantsSpecific observations of how group members come and goSpecific observations of how group members respond to outsidersSpecific observations of clothing, and other cosmetic features of group membersSpecific accounts of stories members tell each otherAfter ten or so minutes observing, shift to the right-hand side of the notebook. Write down what those details/observations/descriptions might say about why people gather there, what purposes the place serves, what particular groups the place attracts, what behaviors the place encourages. Record your conclusions about this “culture.”On the Right Side Reflect on whether you see any patterns in the data you collected on the opposing page. Are certain behaviors repeated by group members?Do group members use the space in a characteristic way?Is the language they use distinctive? In what situations do they use it?Do group members reproduce certain ways of interacting with each other?What are “typical” situations that recur?How do members learn from each other? How is knowledge passed along?What kinds of behaviors are most valued by the group? What kinds of knowledge?How do group members view outsiders?What motivates members to want to belong?
  • If you have permission from former students to use their sketches as examples, this is a good time to show them.
  • Students should spend time in class, ideally, going through the journal steps outlined under “Writing the Sketch” (page 363) in the textbook.
  • As noted in the textbook, these are some general guidelines for writing a sketch. Review these before students write one.
  • A way to recap what the process has been so far. This can help students see visually that there is a method to what might seem messy.
  • It’s critical that students continue to visit and take field notes on the places where the group members frequent. They need an abundance of information in this project so as to make more reasonable, valid assertions about the subculture.Consider referring to the sidebar, “Useful Library Databases for Ethnography” (page 366): This sidebar lists a number of library databases where students can find published ethnographies. As Ballenger notes, students should consult these to find studies that have been done on the group they are studying.
  • A way to guide peer response to drafts during class workshop.
  • Revision is about shaping: arranging the draft to reveal what the essay is about.

Essay 3: The Ethnographic Essay Essay 3: The Ethnographic Essay Presentation Transcript

  • Part 2: Inquiry ProjectsChapter NineWriting an Ethnographic EssayPowerPoint by Michelle Payne, PhDBoise State UniversityThe Curious WriterFourth Editionby Bruce BallengerCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • THE WRITING PROCESSCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Inquiry Project: Ethnographic EssayHow do thepeople in aculture seethemselvesand theirworld?Limited focuson aspect ofculture thatemerges fromobservations.FocusAround somethesis orinterpretationof how thisculture seesthings.OrganizationOffer arationale forwhy thisgroupconstitutes adistinctculture.RationaleProvideenoughevidence fromyour fieldobservationsto make yourinterpretationsandcommentaryconvincing.Reasons andEvidenceCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Inquiry ProjectInquiryQuestionsHow do thepeople in asocial group orculture seethemselves andtheir world?MotivesDiscovering the best ways to understand andcommunicate with a particular audience.Proposing policies that incorporate how affectedpeople see the problems.Improving products and services targeted tocertain groups.Developing an informed understanding of culturalgroups and theories that explain their beliefsand behaviors.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Features of the Form• Field observations• Artifacts• Images, recordings, video• Research• Interviews• Typical day• Collage• Narrative• Study of a culturalgroup in a localsetting• Subcultures•To observe, interview, anddescribe members of socialgroups.•What do they say and do?•What things do they value?•How do they see each other?Purpose SubjectSourcesFormCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • WHAT ARE YOU GOING TOWRITE ABOUT?“We are all enmeshed—or wish to be—withinintricate webs of cultures.”Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Use relevant methods of invention toidentify a local culture to study.Opening up (generating):• What kinds of social groups exist in thecommunity? On campus?Narrowing down (judging):• Will you be able to access information on theculture? How do I analyze my field notes?Trying out (generating, then judging):• What further observations can I make? What standsout to me about this subculture?Goal 3Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • When deciding on a group to study…Two ConditionsDo members of the group identify with it?Is it a social group with some cohesion?Is it accessible? Will you be able to talk toand describe group members in the fieldin the coming few weeks?Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Opening Up: Generating Ideas• Journal prompts– Listing– Fastwriting– Visual prompts– Research promptsIdentifiable socialgroups?What have others said about thesesocial groups?Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Opening Up: Generating IdeasBrainstorm a list of identifiable social groups in thecommunity and on campus.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Opening Up: Generating IdeasChoose one of the trends, hobbies, communitygroups, or campus groups from your first table, andlist all of the artifacts, language, and rituals associatedwith the group.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • What’s Promising Material and What Isn’t?• Does the cultural group you want to study meetregularly?• Is there any background research on the group in thelibrary or online that might provide additionalinformation?• Will there be any privacy issues? For example, domembers of the group engage in activities (legal orotherwise) that would make them reluctant to talk toyou?Narrowing Down: JudgingCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • QuestionsAboutPurposeandAudienceAnalyzeFocus on whatis less obviousLook hardand lookcloselyTellstories, provideprofiles, etc.Discover onemain thing tosayFind thequestionGoal 4Analyze and interpret qualitativeinformation.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Writingethnographicallyrequires that youexpand yourrepertoire ofresearch to includeinterviews andfieldwork.Trying Out: Generating, Then Judging• What do people say? Where? And whodoes the talking?• Topics or issues that arise that mightmerit follow-up interviews.• Subjects that members of the groupoften talk about, or things they say thatsurprise you.• Detailed descriptions ofactivities, especially those that happenregularly or have particular significancefor the group you’re studying.Taking NotesCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Trying Out: Generating, Then JudgingLeft SideAre certain behaviors repeated by groupmembers?Do group members use the space in acharacteristic way?Is the language they use distinctive? In whatsituations do they use it?Do group members reproduce certain ways ofinteracting with each other?What are “typical” situations that recur?How do members learn from each other? How isknowledge passed along?What kinds of behaviors are most valued by thegroup? What kinds of knowledge?How do group members view outsiders?What motivates members to want to belong?Right SideSpecific observations ofHow people in the group interactWhat exactly individuals are doingFragments of distinctive language, “insiderphrases,” sayings, jargonNotes of overheard conversations or frominterviewsSpecific descriptions of the place, artifactsRough sketches of the layout of the spaceSpecific observations of clothing, and othercosmetic features of group membersSpecific accounts of stories members telleach otherField NotesCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Sketch: What Is It?• A “verbal drawing of your topic—anearly draft—to see if you shoulddevelop it further.”• You may or may not answer the “Sowhat?” question—see what happens.Let the writinghelp youfigure outwhat youthink.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Before Drafting the Sketch…NarrativeofthoughtStrandson thewebExamineonestrand•Shared language•Share artifacts•Common ritualsand traditions•Shared beliefs andattitudes•CommonmotivationsCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Sketch: What Should You Try to Do?• Choose a title for your sketch.• Whenever possible, show what you observedor heard usingdescription, scene, dialogue, and similarliterary devices.• Offer a tentative theory about a belief orattitude that group members seem toshare, based on your initial field observationsand interviews.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • The ProcessSo Far…Narrowing Trying OutAbundanceSurpriseConfusionBrain-stormingClusteringPromptsSketchGenerating• What questions does this materialraise for you?• What might it mean?• Why would readers care about this?Now what?Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • DRAFTINGCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • What should anethnographic essay do?How do the people in a social group orculture see themselves and their world?InterviewsArtifactsObservationsCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Evaluating: From Sketch to DraftWhat is my strongestimpression of the group sofar? What kinds of thingsdid I see, hear, or read thatgave me that impression?What is another impressionI have?Which one of these twoimpressions might be afocus for the next draft?What do I most want toknow now about theculture I’m observing?What questions do I have?Evaluate your sketch: Respond to these questions in your journal:Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Evaluating: From Sketch to DraftMake a plan for further research and observations:Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Developing: From Sketch to DraftPhotosInterviewsArtifactsMapsReadingresearchReturn to thefield sitesfrequently.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Developing: From Sketch to Draft• Analyze the data into categoriesCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Methods of Development: Narrativeand Compare/ContrastA typical dayFocus on a day that seemsrepresentativeParticular time, place, andpeopleProvides dramatic, limitedfocusCollageSeries of significant snapshotsof subjects in natural settingsHeadings indicate significanceof sceneNarrative of thoughtYour initial presumptions aboutthe cultureHow your observations andresearch influenced thoseSimilarities•CompareDifferences•ContrastCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Methods of Development:Question to AnswerProvide somebackground fromresearch about otherstudies (if any) thathave directly orindirectly addressedthe question.Explain the writer’sinterest in thequestion.Explain the methodsthe writer used tofocus on thequestion.Offer a theory, apossible answer tothe question.Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Using EvidenceAssertions about subculturePhotos, interviews, artifacts, maps, reading research, field notesCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • WorkshoppingPurposeIs it clear which part of my topic I’mfocusing on?Meaning(What’s the S.O.F.T.?)If you had assumptions about theculture I’m studying before you readmy essay, how did reading it changethose assumptions?How would you summarize myanswer to the inquiry question: Howdo members of this group seethemselves and their world?Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Apply revision strategies that are effectivefor an ethnographic essay.Goal 5Does the draft try to saythings about the grouprather than focus on a singlemainthesis, interpretation, orquestion?If your time for fieldworkwas limited, did you makeup for it by finding someuseful research about theculture you studied in thelibrary or on the web?Shaping: Information and OrganizationCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Purpose of Revision: ShapingShapingWhat theessay is aboutHow the draftreveals• Purpose• Meaning• Inquiry question• Theme• Organization• InformationCopyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Guide to Revision StrategiesUnclear Purpose•Not sure what theessay is about? Fails toanswer the So Whatquestion?Unclear thesis, themeor main idea•Not sure what you’retrying to say?Lack of information ordevelopment•Needs more details?More showing, lesstelling?Disorganized•Doesn’t move logicallyor smoothly fromparagraph toparagraph?Unclear or awkward atthe level of sentencesand paragraphs•Seems choppy or hardto follow at the level ofsentences orparagraphs?Chapter 13:RevisionStrategies1 to 4Chapter 13:RevisionStrategies5 to 10Chapter 13:RevisionStrategies11 to 14Chapter 13:RevisionStrategies15 to 18Chapter 13:RevisionStrategies20 to 26Copyright © 2014 by Pearson Education, Inc. All rights reserved.