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What is ethnography?

 (from Greek ἔθνος ethnos "folk, people, nation"

and γράφω grapho "I write") is the systematic study of
people and cultures.
 is the recording and analysis of a culture or society,
usually based on participant-observation and resulting
in a written account of a people, place or institution
 is the study of people in their own environment
through the use of methods such as participant
observation and face-to-face interviewing.
 documents cultural similarities and differences
through empirical fieldwork and can help with
scientific generalizations about human behavior and
the operation of social and cultural systems
Features of ethnographic research

 Involves investigation of very few cases, maybe just one case, in

 Often involves working with primarily unconstructed data. This data
had not been coded at the point of data collection in terms of a closed
set of analytic categories.
 Emphasizes on exploring social phenomena rather than testing
 Data analysis involves interpretation of the functions and meanings
of human actions. The product of this is mainly verbal explanations,
where statistical analysis and quantification play a subordinate role.
 Methodological discussions focus more on questions about how to
report findings in the field than on methods of data collection and
 Ethnographies focus on describing the culture of a group in very
detailed and complex manner. The ethnography can be of the entire
group or a subpart of it.
 In ethnography, the researcher gathers what is available, what is
normal, what it is that people do, what they say, and how they work
Classic ethnographic research

 involves a detailed description of the whole of a

culture outside of the country of origin of the
 Traditionally those engaging in ethnographic
research spend years in the place of study, also
known as the “field.”
 As a result of the time spent living among
communities, ethnographers have been able to
produce thick written cultural descriptions known
as ethnographies that communicate the
information found in the field.
Contemporary ethnographic research

 has the added dimension of not only looking at

people outside of the county of origin of the
researcher, but also seeks to better understand
those who reside within the county of origin.
 looks at what may be considered ordinary or
mundane to those living within a community
 Examples : shopping malls, corporations, towns,
cities, cyberspace, garbage, libraries, parks,
 also differs from classic ethnographic research in
that researchers may have limited amounts of time
in which to conduct research. This, however, does
not detract from the quality of work produced.
 classic and contemporary, are both descriptive and
interpretive; descriptive, because detail is so crucial,
and interpretive because the ethnographer must
determine the significance of what he or she observes
without gathering broad, statistical information.
 Before going to the actual place of study, those
engaging in ethnographic studies conduct library and
other archival research to learn some of what is already
known about the place and people they are interested
in so as not to enter the “field” unprepared.
 The researcher then spends time with the group of
people under study to get a sense of how they live, their
beliefs and rituals, and their interactions with each
other and those around them. Traditional ethnographic
research usually requires at least a year in the field to
get a clear understanding of the group
Why is Ethnographic Research

 Ethnographic research, in much the same way, gets

below the surface and challenges assumptions made
regarding a variety of topics.
 also done in an attempt to discover patterns in
human behavior.
 In doing research that is detailed, descriptive and
interpretive, ethnographers are better able to “see”
the community through the eyes of those who live in
the community.
What are Ethnographic Research

 There are several ways researchers conduct

ethnographic research. Each, however, is designed
to perform a specific task. Each method is
designed to solicit a particular kind of information
from participants. Some methods widely used by
ethnographic researchers include:
Participant Observation

 It involves getting close to people and making

them feel comfortable enough with your presence
so that you can observe and record information
about their lives”
 Participant observation is much more than just
conducting interviews or completing telephone
surveys…it’s much more than simply watching a
 It encompasses a wide range of methods including
a combination of methods such as those previously
Literature Review:

 before attempting to contact individuals for a

study, ethnographic researchers read literature
about the subject under study.
 This is an important step because the researcher
does not want to repeat other studies.
 . Local historical sources are important in placing a
study within the proper context, a context that
should take into consideration interrelated issues,
settings, the environment, and relationships.
 Nothing is worse than a participant correcting a
researcher on common knowledge!

 there are several types of interviews ethnographic

researchers conduct.
 While interviews are important, it is equally
important to validate what people are saying with
what they do through other participant observation
 there is a continuum ranging from no control (chit-
chats or daily rounds) to lots of control (e.g., a
questionnaire). Trained professionals will know
when and how to administer a specific type of
Life History:

 a type of interview that reveals an individual’s lived

experiences over a chronological period of time.
 They are usually centered around a particular theme
(e.g., experiences with discrimination over one’s
lifetime) and are very detailed.
Focus Groups:

 This method focuses on the discourse of the

community and also allows the researcher the
opportunity to observe the reaction of participants
to one another’s ideas.
 Focus groups generate a significant amount of
data in a short period of time.
Field notes:

 notes kept by anthropologists throughout the

duration of their studies.
 Field notes can include drawings, census, comments
on social relationships, and descriptions of places,
events, and weather.
 serve as a reminder of events that have occurred
through the duration of a study.
 Researchers know that relying on memory alone can
alter the perception of what actually took place
during any given event.

 technique used by ethnographers to better understand

social and spatial relationships within a community
through the use of “maps” drawn by community
 Mapping comes in a variety of forms, there can be :
 geographic maps that illustrate physical structures and distance
 mental or cognitive maps that give insight into the importance of a
place or space according to individual perception
 transect walks which involve a researcher walking with a member
of the community and asking questions along a guided tour.
Ethics in Ethnographic Research

 Ethnographers, like others in a profession or

community, follow a code of ethics. With the many
challenges that an anthropologist may face, having a
code of ethics as a guideline is useful in the
collection, dissemination, and utilization of
information collected while in the field.
 there are responsibilities that anthropologists ought
to be aware of including responsibilities to:
 people and animals with whom they live and work. The
primary ethical obligation is to the “people, species, and
materials” studied. They should gain informed consent and
can implement measures to ensure anonymity. There is to
be no intentional harm done to the people, animals or
 scholarship and science. Anthropologists should not
intentionally deceive or misrepresent information, should
preserve opportunities for future fieldwork for others who
may come after them, and should consider all reasonable
requests to access data for purposes of research.
 the public. Results of research should be accessible to the
public, anthropologists and non anthropologists alike.
 students and trainees. No discrimination based on “race,”
gender, class, political position, should exist. Researchers
are also responsible for the encouragement of students and
their interest, training of students, and the
acknowledgement of students and trainees publicly who
contribute to research.
Ethnography as method

 The ethnographic method is different from other

ways of conducting social science approach due to
the following reasons:
 It is field-based. It is conducted in the settings in which real
people actually live, rather than in laboratories where the
researcher controls the elements of the behaviors to be observed
or measured.
 It is personalized. It is conducted by researchers who are in the
day-to-day, face-to-face contact with the people they are studying
and who are thus both participants in and observers of the lives
under study.
 It is multifactorial. It is conducted through the use of two or more
data collection techniques - which may be qualitative or
quantitative in nature - in order to get a conclusion.
 It requires a long-term commitment i.e. it is conducted by a
researcher who intends to interact with people they are
studying for an extended period of time. The exact time
frame can vary from several weeks to a year or more.
 It is inductive. It is conducted in such a way to use an
accumulation of descriptive detail to build toward general
patterns or explanatory theories rather than structured to
test hypotheses derived from existing theories or models.
 It is dialogic. It is conducted by a researcher whose
interpretations and findings may be expounded on by the
study’s participants while conclusions are still in the process
of formulation.
 It is holistic. It is conducted so as to yield the fullest possible
portrait of the group under study.
 It can also be used in other methodological frameworks, for
instance, an action research program of study where one of
the goals is to change and improve the situation.
Procedures for conducting ethnography

 Determine if ethnography is the most appropriate design to use to

study the research problem.
 Identify and locate a culture-sharing group to study. This group is
one whose members have been together for an extended period of
time, so that their shared language, patterns of behavior and
attitudes have merged into discernible patterns.
 Select cultural themes, issues or theories to study about the group.
 For studying cultural concepts, determine which type of
ethnography to use.
 Should collect information in the context or setting where the
group works or lives. This is called fieldwork.
 From the many sources collected, the ethnographer analyzes the
data for a description of the culture-sharing group, themes that
emerge from the group and an overall interpretation
 Forge a working set of rules or generalizations as to how the
culture-sharing group works as the final product of this analysis.
Forms of ethnography

 Realist ethnography:

 is a traditional approach used by cultural anthropologists.

 it reflects a particular instance taken by the researcher toward
the individual being studied.
 It's an objective study of the situation

 It's composed from a third person's perspective by getting the

data from the members on the site.
 The analyst will give a detailed report of the everyday life of the
individuals under study.
 Critical ethnography :

 is a kind of ethnographic research in which the creators advocate

for the liberation of groups which are marginalized in society
 researchers typically are politically minded people who look to
take a stand of opposition to inequality and domination.
 For example, a critical ethnographer might study schools that
provide privileges to certain types of students, or counseling
practices that serve to overlook the needs of underrepresented
 The important components of a critical ethnographer are to
incorporate a value- laden introduction, empower people by
giving them more authority, challenging the status quo, and
addressing concerns about power and control.
 A critical ethnographer will study issues of power,
empowerment, inequality inequity, dominance, repression,
hegemony, and victimization.