Ethnography

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Ethnography - (from Greek ἔθνος ethnos = folk/people and γραφία graphia = writing) is a scientific research strategy often used in the field of social sciences, particularly in anthropology and in some branches of sociology,[1] also known as part of historical science that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture.[2] It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing.[3] In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a "field study" or a "case report," both of which are used as common synonyms for "ethnography".[4]

Contents

Evaluating ethnography

Ethnographic methodology is not usually evaluated in terms of philosophical standpoint (such as positivism and emotionalism). Ethnographic studies nonetheless need to be evaluated in some manner. While there is no consensus on evaluation standards, Richardson (2000, p. 254)[5] provides 5 criteria that ethnographers might find helpful.

Data collection methods

One of the most common methods for collecting data in an ethnographic study is direct, first-hand observation of daily participation. This can include participant observation. Another common method is interviewing, which may include conversation with different levels of form and can involve small talk to long interviews. A particular approach to transcribing interview data might be genealogical method. This is a set of procedures by which ethnographers discover and record connections of kinship, descent and marriage using diagrams and symbols. Questionnaires can be used to aid the discovery of local beliefs and perceptions and in the case of longitudinal research, where there is continuous long-term study of an area or site, they can act as valid instrument for measuring changes in the individuals or groups studied. Traditionally, the ethnographer focuses attention on a community, selecting knowledgeable informants who know well the activities of the community.[7] These informants are typically asked to identify other informants who represent the community, often using chain sampling.[7] This process is often effective in revealing common cultural common denominators connected to the topic being studied.[7] Ethnography relies greatly on up-close, personal experience. Participation, rather than just observation, is one of the keys to this process.[8]

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