Writing theEthnography By Gisela Martiz Qualitative Research II
Wolcott the (Un)Natural Writer• You are a “natural writer” if things come easily to you…Well, not really. You have just completed the fieldwork , now it is time to write it up…• Once you have gathered all your data, how do you know what to exclude or include in your manuscript? Images source: Google Images
Spindler-Wolcott…Again• In this article Wolcott tells his experiences when writing his manuscript on the principal he observed…experiences also presented in a chapter read earlier this semester (Wolcott, 2010)• Spindler plays a pivotal role in Wolcott’s transition to becoming a “natural writer”: • “How do you justify studying one principal in order to understand principals? “ (p. 326) • “Questions to answer in 1st part: What did you want to find out? Why do you call it an ethnography? Why couldnt you find out other ways?” • Would these type of questions be useful to you in writing your paper? • How would you answer them?
Cultural Themes• “Like culture itself, cultural themes are ‘attributed’, and it is the ethnographer who does the attributing”• “Something observed must prompt the themes proposed; they don’t just grow out of the thin air, nor are they handed down from on high.”• Spindler suggests: “find the particular, and draw on it to establish some broader themes that cover more cases and begin to form patterns” (p.330)• Have you identified the cultural themes that circumscribe your research study? If so, how?
A friendly hand in the writing process• Wolcott remarks the role colleagues and friends played in his writing process, but acknowledges some drawbacks of having others read drafts.• “ Reviewers have their own styles and agendas and may confuse where I want to go with where they want to go” (p. 336)• How can we deal with accepting feedback on our work, without losing authority on it? Images source: Google Images
Lincoln…on becoming a natural writer• Writing is an activity that always involves a community…a community of those whom one hopes to persuade, a reading audience or audiences… including the reviewers.• Understand why a comment has been made before “fixing” the document…regardless who the reviewer is.• Accept when a reviewer or critic has a legitimate point, and know intuitively when a reviewer has missed the point.• Understand your own message.• Select which elements will be presented.• Arrange them so that they address the needs of a particular. audience.
• Main points:Wolcott: Writing Up… • Lit Review: formal lit review not necessary- interweave it into dissertation • Method: all research begins with observation • “Method is not the forte of qualitative research.” • What do you think he means by this? • Perspective of qualitative research has changed over time to be represented as a tree- Is this a good representation? Where do you fit within this framework? Images source: Google Images
Emmerson: Writing Ethnography • “Rather than composing a tightly organized analytic argument in which each idea leads logically and exclusively to the next, we advocate writing ethnographies as narrative “tales”. • “Writing a thematic narrative differs fundamentally from writing an analytic argument, both in the process of putting that text together and in the structure of the final text.” (p. 170)• Thematic narrative: • is it an argumentative narrative? • Or a novel with evidence?
The How To’s• Wait to write explicit thesis• Look for themes- write phrases stating possible themes • “I will show that parents become involved in court decisions.” (p. 172)• Focus on one topic• Tie themes identified to the topic; themes that don’t go with the topic, drop• Integrative strategy vs. excerpt strategy (p. 179-182)• Excerpt- Commentary Units – ”formula” (p. 182- 183) • Analytic point • Orienting information • Excerpt • Analytic commentary
Completing the Picture• Introduce story through a theme and a colon • “Waiting to Die: An Ethnographic Study of a Convalescent Home• Link to other research • careful selection of other research to provide context for the upcoming findings (not a review of literature)• Introduce setting & methods • Provides background information to comprehend the findings• Conclusion • Elaborate on thesis; summarize major themes & findings
Writing Strategies: Richardson• Writing a trade book…five major devices to achieve it:• Encoding• Narrative stance• Tone• Quotations and biographical narratives• Synecdoche
Encoding :• how to present the text to the audience:• Trade encoding: dominates the format structure of the book (the look of the book) (p. 32)• Academic encoding: use of rhetorical devices, organization of the book, appeal to sociological legitimacy• Moral/political perspective: words according to the author’s moral or activist “credentials”
Narrative stance:• Narrative stance:• What type of narrative should we choose?• “It will depend upon ones’ skills, dispositions, aesthetic preferences, and personal and political goals” p. 35.
Quotations and biographical narratives• “Qualitative books are often critiqued as bad science, not because they necessarily are, but because the literary decisions regarding presentation of lives are busily undermining the work’s credibility” p. 39.• The use of quotations can help to meet the literary and science criteria:• Short quotations and biographical events• Embedded quotations• Longer quotations- thematic biographical narratives• According to Richardson, the length of quotations will help transmit different types messages to the reader. For the purpose of your research, what kind of quotations would be more suitable when writing your paper?
Tone:• “Tone reveals the implicit moral attitude of the writer toward the material” p. 39• It can be shown through metaphors, material organization, or how the author treats and frame quotations or a person’s experience.• “Tone…becomes a way for the omniscient writers of qualitative research to accomplish two interlocking tasks: reduction of their authority over writing of others, and amplification of their credibility as writers of interpretive social science” p. 39.• In what ways can we use tone in our own research to accomplish these two tasks?
Writing academic papers• “One of the most important things for qualitative researchers to bear in mind is that they can write up the same material in different ways. The material is malleable” p. 49• Progress papers can help you find your frame, tone, narrative stance, metaphors, and audience.• Say no to “exploratory research”…. “the exploratory stance is toxic to the novice researcher because exploratory papers often end up being un-publishable, boring or both” (p.50)
Typology• Typology’s purpose is:• a) find something in your material worthy of classification• b) provide some of the categories• Typologies are excellent rhetorical devices for framing qualitative work, for they can be written with an open-endedness, help the researcher sift through ethnographic materials in a focused way and permit the writing to be about something in the project. P. 51
Getting qualitative research • “Shaping qualitative published material for mainline journals requires telling your research story in a way that meets the expectations of the editors/reviewers of those journals” p. 53 Images source: Google Images
From Richardson’s experience…• Treat editor’s and reviewers’ comments as questions generated by the audience rather than attacks upon the value of the work and use their readings to reshape your article.• Narrative stance…Identify yourself with a theoretical tradition and methodological approach.• Introduction: Speak as a disembodied authority in the omniscient voice of science (there is no “I”)• Write in passive voice to eliminate human agency.
• Convince readers that there is something of general (sociological) interest in the paper.• Methods: Find ways to write within the logico- empiricist discursive space: talk to the audience as respectfully as you would to the people you were studying.• Findings: Tie the voices to the theory and the theory to the voices. Integrate quotations within the paragraphs and include other literary devices (images, metaphors, etc)
A couple of final questions…• What are the similarities and differences among Richardson’s, Emmerson’s and Wolcott’s perspectives in writing qualitative papers?• Which one do you think goes along with your research approach?
ReferencesEmmerson, R, et al., (1995). Processing Fieldnotes. In Writing Ethnographic Field Notes (pp.142- 168). Illinois; University of Chicago PressWolcott, H.(2003). On Being a Natural Writer. In Anthropology & Education Quarterly Vol. 34 (3) pp. 324-338.Wolcott, H.(2002). Writing Up Qualitative Research. In Qualitative Health Research, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 91-103.Richardson, L. (1990). Writing Strategies: Reaching Diverse Audiences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.