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The form of research known as Ethnography

Ethnography is a kind of research focusing on the sociology of indicating through close field observation of sociocultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a community (definitely not geographic, considering also work, leisure, and other communities), selecting informants who are known to have an overview of the activities of the community. Such informants are asked to identify other informants consultant of the city, using chain sampling to obtain a saturation of informants in every empirical regions of exploration. Informants are interviewed multiple times, using information from earlier informants to elicit clarification and deeper responses upon re-interview. This technique is supposed to expose common cultural understandings related to the phenomena under analysis. These subjective but collective understandings on a topic (ex. , stratification) are often interpreted to become more significant than objective data (ex. , income differentials).

It should be known that ethnography may be contacted from the point of view of art work and cultural preservation, so that as a descriptive rather than analytic undertaking. The feedback here, however, give attention to social science analytic aspects. With this target, ethnography is a branch of cultural anthropology.

Related information is contained in the sections on content evaluation and on case study research.

Key Principles and Terms

The ethnographic method begins with collection of a culture, overview of the literature pertaining to the culture, and recognition of variables of interest -- typically variables perceived as significant by associates of the culture. The ethnographer then moves about gaining access, which in turn sets the stage for ethnical immersion of the ethnographer in the culture. It is not strange for ethnographers to reside in the culture for weeks or even years. The center phases of the ethnographic method involve gaining informants, using them to gain yet more informants in a chaining process, and gathering of data in the form of observational transcripts and interview recordings. Data evaluation and theory development come at the end, though theories may emerge from cultural immersion and theory-articulation by associates of the culture. However, the ethnographic researcher strives to avoid theoretical preconceptions and instead to induce theory from the perspectives of the associates of the culture and from observation. The researcher may seek validation of induced theories by heading back to people of the culture for their reaction.

Definition. A popular definition of ethnography is found in Hammersley and Atkinson (1995: 1), who write of ethnography, "We start to see the term as referring mostly to a particular method or models of methods. In its most characteristic form it will involve the ethnographer participating, overtly or covertly, in people's lives for a long period of time, observing what happens, playing what's said, asking questions"in simple fact, collecting whatever data are available to put light on the problems that are the focus of the research. Recently, Johnson (2000: 111) defines ethnography as "a descriptive consideration of communal life and culture in a particular social system predicated on detailed observations of what folks actually do. "

Ethnographic methodologies range and some ethnographers advocate use of organised observation schedules where one may code discovered behaviors or ethnical artifacts for purposes of later statistical examination. Coding and subsequent statistical evaluation is cured in Hodson (1999). See also Denzin and Lincoln (1994).

Macro-ethnography is the study of broadly-defined cultural groupings, such as "the English" or "New Yorkers. "

Micro-ethnography is the analysis of narrowly-defined cultural groupings, such as "municipality GIS specialists" or "people of Congress. "

Emic point of view is the ethnographic research method of what sort of users of the given culture understand their world. The emic perspective is usually the key emphasis of ethnography.

Etic point of view, is the ethnographic research approach to the way non-members (outsiders) understand and interpret conducts and phenomena associated with a given culture.

Situational reduction identifies the view of ethnographers that public structures and communal dynamics emerge from and may be reduced analytically to the accumulated ramifications of microsituational interactions (Collins 1981, 1988). Put another way, the cosmos is best realized in microcosm. Situational decrease, Collins (1981b: 93) composed, ". . . produces an empirically stronger theory, on any degree of analysis, by exhibiting the real-life situations and behaviors that define its phenomena. In particular, it presents empirically real causal forces in the condition of human beings expending energy. It enables us to discover which macro-concepts and explanations are empirically groundable, and which are not. . . "

Symbols, always a emphasis of ethnographic research, are any material artifact of any culture, such as fine art, clothing, or even technology. The ethnographer strives to comprehend the cultural connotations associated with symbols. Technology, for example, may be interpreted in terms of how it relates to an implied plan to bring in regards to a different desired status for the culture.

Cultural patterning is the observation of social patterns forming interactions involving several symbols. Ethnographic research is holistic, believing that symbols cannot be understood in isolation but instead are components of a whole. One method of patterning is conceptual mapping, using the conditions of members of the culture themselves to relate symbols across varied kinds of tendencies and in assorted contexts. Another method is to concentrate on learning processes, to be able to understand what sort of culture transmits what it perceives to make a difference across generations. A 3rd method is to concentrate on sanctioning processes, to be able to comprehend which ethnical elements are formally (ex. , legally) approved or proscribed and that happen to be informally recommended or proscribed, and of the that happen to be enforced through sanction and that happen to be unenforced.

Tacit knowledge is deeply-embedded cultural beliefs which can be assumed in a culture's way of perceiving the world, so much so that such knowledge is almost never or never discussed explicitly by people of the culture, but instead must be inferred by the ethnographer.


Ethnography assumes the main research interest is primarily affected by community cultural understandings. The strategy virtually assures that common ethnical understandings will be discovered for the study interest accessible. Interpretation is likely to place great weight on the causal importance of such social understandings. There's a possibility an ethnographic concentrate will overestimate the role of social perceptions and underestimate the causal role of objective forces.

Ethnography assumes an capability to recognize the relevant community appealing. In some adjustments, this is difficult. Community, formal company, informal group, and individual-level perceptions may all play a causal role in the topic under analysis, and the importance of these may vary by time, place, and issue. There is a possibility an ethnographic focus may overestimate the role of community culture and underestimate the causal role of specific psychological or of sub-community (or for that matter, extra-community) causes.

Ethnography assumes the researcher is capable of understanding the ethnical mores of the populace under research, has learned the words or complex jargon of the culture, and has structured findings on comprehensive knowledge of the culture. There is a threat that the researcher may introduce bias toward perspectives of his / her own culture.

While not inherent to the technique, cross-cultural ethnographic research operates the chance of falsely assuming that given steps have the same interpretation across ethnicities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn't ethnography a subjective rather than methodical social research research method?

Selection of informants is not predicated on the researcher's personal judgments but on identifications created by community members. Likewise, conclusions about ethnical understandings of the phenomena of interests aren't personal insights of the researcher, or even of particular community people, but are views cross-validated through repeated, in-depth interviews with a wide cross-section of representative informants. Ethnographers may also validate studies through classic archival research, assessment with experts, use of surveys, and other techniques not unique to ethnography. At the same time, ethnographic interviews are more in-depth than review research. Ethnographers react to charges of subjectivity by emphasizing that their way eschews preconceived frameworks and derives signifying from the city informants themselves, whereas survey instruments often represent the conceptual categories preconceived by the researcher prior to actual come across with respondents.

What will be the Human Relationships Area Documents (HRAF)?

The Human Relations Area Documents (HRAF), structured at Yale University, are a big collection of pre-coded ethnographic field studies of some 350 civilizations. Formerly available only on microfiche, collection subsets are actually on CD-ROM. Types of coded subjects include matrimony, family, offense, education, religion, and warfare. The researcher must code factors of interest to exceed the precoding done by HRAF. A huge selection of articles have been based on the HRAF cultural database, and series of coding schemes are documented in Barry and Schlegel, eds. (1980). The HRAF repository is well suited for ethnographic coding methods as described in Hodson (1999)

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