Ethnographic research, or ethnography, is both a study of interactive strategies in human life and an analytical descriptions of social scenes, individuals, and groups that recreate their shared feelings, beliefs, practices, artifacts, folk knowledge, and actions. In other words, it is both a process and product of describing and interpreting cultural behaviors. Ethnography methodology was born in anthropology. It unites both fieldwork and artifact such as written text. Fieldwork, undertaken as participant observation and ethnographic interview, is the process by which the ethnographer comes to know a culture; the collection of artifact is how culture is portrayed. There is general agreement that culture itself is not visible or tangible but is co-constructed and reconstructed by the act of ethnographic writing.
Ethnography is interactive research, it requires relatively extensive time in a site or systematically observe, interview, and record processes as they occur naturally at the selected location. Ethnography has been called educational anthropology, participant observation, field research, and naturalistic inquiry. Despite considerable variation among ethnographic studies, common methodological strategies distinguish this style of inquiry: participant observation, ethnographic interviews, and artifact collection and analysis. Most ethnographic studies are exploratory or discovery-oriented research to understand peoples' views of their world and to develop new concepts.
The Bubblio's living room is a good resource site on ethnography.
|Observer||Researcher is physically and psychological absent||Inappropriate for ethnographic study; may be used for other forms of qualitative research|
|Participant||Researcher lives through an experience and recollects personal insight||Inappropriate for ethnographic research|
|Participant-observer||Researcher creates role for purpose of study||Typical role in ethnographic study|
|Insider-observer||Researcher has a formal position in organization||Used in special circumstances|
|Interviewer||Establishes role with each person interviewed||Primarily used in ethnographic interview studies|
Participant observation must meet the following requirements:
The process of participant observation is like a funnel, progressively narrowing and directing researchers' attention deeper into the elements of the setting that has emerged as theoretically and/or empirically essential. Participant observation usually follows the following stages:
Ethnographic interviews are open-response questions to obtain data of participant meanings--how individuals conceive of their world and how they explain or "make sense" of the important events in their lives. There are three types of interviews: informal conversation interview, interview guide approach interview, and standardized open-ended interview.
Effective interviews depend on following a number of guidelines:
Artifact collection is a noninteractive strategy for obtaining ethnographic data with little or no reciprocity between the researcher and the participant. Artifact collections are tangible manifestations of the beliefs and behaviors that form a culture, and they describe peoples' experience, knowledge, actions, and values. Analysis of documents and artifact are usually supplementary to participant observations and ethnographic interviews.