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Ethnography: Qualitative Research at its Best

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Title: Ethnography: Qualitative Research at its Best


1
Ethnography Qualitative Research at its Best
  • Lorraine Nencel
  • Department of Social Research Methodology
  • Vrije Universiteit, The Netherlands

2
  • Qualitative Research gives the possibility to
    research and analyze
  • complexity
  • sensitive subjects
  • subjects in need of exploration
  • Discover associations and relations to be able to
  • contexualize
  • explain
  • evaluate
  • generate

3
?
  • Ethnography

4
Research Complex Situations Holistically
5
Facilitates zooming in into particular aspects,
relations or phenomenon in the setting without
losing sight of the whole
6
Enables the researcher to understand the culture
through the interpretations, experiences and
perceptions and meanings given by those living
within this specific cultural context.
I cant find my tent, this is really a bummer man!
7
Natural Setting
  • Research is done in the unpredictable, chaos of
    the natural setting.
  • This gives ethnographic research one very special
    attribute
  • NAMELY

8
The most important research tool is
Yourself
9
Creates and Demands the possibility
  • To be involved
  • To be Reflexive
  • To be creative

10
Hammersley and Atkinson Hoofdstuk 1 What is
ethnography?
  •  
  • Ethnography refers primarily to a particular
    method or set of methods. In its most
    characteristic form it involves the ethnographer
    , participating overtly or covertly, in peoples
    daily lives for an extended period of time,
    watching what happens, listening to what is said,
    asking questions in fact collecting whatever
    data are available to throw light on the issues
    that are the focus of research.
  •  

11
R.Emerson (2001)
  Ethnography seeks to represent social
things as they are grasped and shaped through
the meaning conferring response of members. To
understand the way that group members interpret
the flow of events in their lives.
12
M.Agar (1986) Speaking of Ethnography
  • The social research style that emphasizes
    encountering alien worlds and making sense of
    them is called ethnography… Ethnographers set out
    to show how social action in one world makes
    sense from the point of view of another. Such
    work requires an intensive personal involvement,
    an abandonment of traditional scientific control,
    an improvisational style to meet situations not
    of the researchers making, and an ability to
    learn from a long series of mistakes.
  •  
  • Ethnography no longer claims to describe a
    reality accessible by anyone using the right
    methods, independent of the historical cultural
    context of the act of describing… Ethnography is
    neither subjective or objective. It is
    interpretive, mediating two worlds through a
    third.
  •  

13
C.A.Davis (1999) Reflexive Ethnography
  • Ethnography … a research process based on
    fieldwork using a variety of (mainly qualitative)
    research techniques but including engagement in
    the lives of those being studied over an extended
    period of time. The eventual written product an
    ethnography draws its data primarily from this
    fieldwork experience and usually emphasises
    descriptive detail as a result

14
What is Reflexivity
?
  •  

15
C.A. Davis Reflexive Ethnography (1999 4)
  • Reflexivity, broadly defined, means a turning
    back on oneself, a process of self reference. In
    the context of social research, reflexivity at
    its most immediately obvious level refers to the
    ways in which the products of research are
    affected by the personal and process of doing
    research. These effects are to be found in all
    the phases of the research process from initial
    selection of topic to final reporting of
    results.
  •  

16
FIELD METHODS
17
We go to the field
18
(No Transcript)
19
Relations
20
Work related subjects
21
Organisations
22
Groeps
23
Associations and Boards
24
Members of Associations
25
Political Organizations
26
Researchg bagage
ethics
Theoretical assumptions

Research proposal
Camera, tape recorder
Field methods
27
Which methods do you use?
  • Depends on your research
  • The objective of your research
  • Central question
  • Time
  • Type of access (are people willing to work with
    you, do you have permission. Do you have a room
    to conduct interviews, for example?

28
Pragmatisch Toolkit
  • Ritchie en Lewis speak about the pragmatic
    toolkit
  • They are encouraging greater acceptance of
    pragmatism in choosing the appropriate method for
    addressing specific research questions, rather
    than focusing too much on the underlying
    philosophical debates… Qualitative and
    quantitative approaches should not be seen as
    competing and contradictory , but should instead
    be viewed as complementary strategies appropriate
    to different types of research questions or
    issues (2003 15).

29
Observation
30
Observation two types of observation
  • Observation used in quantitative oriented reseach
    (psychology, communicatian sciences- experiments)
  • Structured observation
  • Observation in qualtitative research
  • Direct observation
  • Participant observation

31
Experimental Observation
32
Experimental Observation
  • Origins positivist tradition.
  • Observe predefined definitions and variables in a
    controled environment.
  • Minimalizin the influence from the observer
  • Deductive observation.

33
Qualitative Research Observation and Induction
Directe Observation --------Participant
observation
Natural environemen t
Inductive
34
Observation in qualitative research
  • Holistic
  • From a Distance
  • To become familiar with the research setting
  • Forces you to use your senses and not the power
    of the word (or the gift of gab)

35
  • Gives insight into interaction between people and
    in groups.
  • See processes in working
  • Can you describe your workday
  • Gives insight into the physical environment
  • Indentify things, happenings, actions which you
    can deeper in another phase of research (in
    participant observation or an interview)

36
Observation according to Spradley
  • Grand Tour Observations Identification of the
    broader lines
  • Contains a description of the physical enviroment
  • Describes the social situation
  • Mini Tour researches the smaller aspects and
    experiences
  • Uses information that has already been collected
    in the grand tour
  • Spradleys Matrix

37
Fieldnotes during observation
  • Try to write down as much as you can. n.
  • Much description so that you can make a verbal
    photo, so that someone can feel as if they were
    there even if they werent.
  • Try to be as explicit as possible.
  • Avoid aggregate observations ( Many people came
    inside)

38
Thick versus Thin description
  • Thin Description A group of students ran down the
    hall while a few others walked.
  • Thick Description A group of ten students (4
    girls and 6 boys) were going to their next class.
    THe next class began at one oclock. It was five
    to one. One of the girls and four of the boys
    were running. Three girls were had high heels on
    and walked at a brisk pace, while a young man
    walked slowly behin him because he was using
    crutches.

39
Hawthorne Effect
  • It is assumed that the presence of the researcher
    will influence the people in their environment.
    Consequently the researcher receives a
    distorted picture of reality.
  • But experience learns that after the initial
    period people go back to what they were doing.
    The majority of people are too busy to keep
    taking into consideration that a researcher is
    present.

40
If you believe in the Hawthorne effect then…
  • You believe that there is an objective,
    independent reality out there that can be
    observed without the researcher influencing it.
  • Some people think the solution is to make
    yourself so small as possible
  • The courthouse

41
Observation and Subjectivity
  • Gazeis the act of seeing it is an act of
    selective perception. Much of what we see is
    shaped by our experiences, and our gazehas a
    direct bearing on what we think. And what we see
    and think …has a bearing upon what we say and
    what and how we write .
  • Paul Stoller

42
Participant Observation
43
Tension between Participation and Observation
  • Participation means active and emotional
    participation…
  • Observation means conscious distance so that you
    can see things clearly.

44
Covert and Overt Research
45
Complexity of Inform Consent
  • Goes against the nature of qualitative research
  • Remnant of posivitist tradition, bio-medical
    sciences.
  • Informed consent assumes that if consent is given
    at the beginning than it is sufficient. Malone
    shows it must be an ongoing process.

46
Covert Research
  • Besides the ethical problems, there are other
    problems
  • Impossible to probe analytically without
    participants finding it suspicious.
  • Singular access to a social reality
  • might have to participate in some unlawful events

47
Benefits according to Lauder
  • Get access into places that you wouldnt be able
    to get in normally.
  • Research which can contribute to public welfare.
  • Must be a balance between the potential harm to
    the participant and the contribution to societys
    wellbeing.
  • Get to know the attitudes and beliefs of ordinary
    members about the everyday world of fringe
    politics.

48
WHO DECIDES?
what is a "deviant community"
49
Example Mystery Clients
50
Ethics in research goes beyond informed consent.
51
Strategic Hanging around
  • You have an agenda. Things you want to get to
    know.
  • Pose questions Informal interviews
  • Just being there.
  • Paricipate in the activitiesL mailings, keeping
    company, cooking, in the fields. Get to know the
    daily routine. This also helps you get to know
    the person while you are working.

52
Research Relations and Identity
53
Insider/Outsider
  • There are social, physical, background factors
    that make someone more of an insider or an
    outsider
  • In this sense it is something that we should take
    in consideration when reflecting on identity in
    field research.
  • BUT insider/outsider carries with it other
    assumptions…..

54
Outsider
CULTURE
55
We now know the ins and outs, thus we are no
longer an outsider.
Insider
What happens to our history, past, experiences in
this mode of thinking?
CULTURE
56
  • Dont throw away the concept entirely.
    Superficial, visible, experiential factors do
    make someone more an outsider than another.
  • The questions remains if you minimilize these
    factors as much as possible, do you then become
    an insider?
  • What is your conceptualization of fieldwork power
    relations if you think this is an alternative?

57
What is the alternative?
  • Recognition that
  • identity as fluid
  • Identity is constructed in the field
  • Knowledge is constructed in the field through
    relations
  • Demands that the research relation is also seen
    as fluid. (both persons come with their histories
    and encounter each other in a specific context
    research context)

58
Research Relationship
  • A unique relationship which very few people in
    the world will experience.
  • Constructed in a specific context research
    context
  • Mixes insider, outsider, friendship,
    professional, etc. all together.
  • Assumes that identities meet, individual's
    experiences mingle with each other, identities
    are recreated, and recognizes that power is (at
    least) a two-sided concept.

59
Being With the Research Subject in the identities
that you possess (M.de Laine 2000)
60
  • Acceptance that a relationship is a means to an
    end, but how you give content is essential for
    not making it an exploitative relationship.

61
Methodology is situated.
62
Participant observation fieldnotes
63
Fieldnotes
  • Everything is written down. The notes from the
    day before can help you structure the following
    day..
  • What did I see?
  • What does this mean?
  • What did I forget?
  • What did he or she mean when he or she said….?

64
Field Notes
  • Unlike unstructured observation, you cant write
    everything down on the spot. If you do have the
    time to write everything down then something is
    wrong with your pariticpant observation.
  • You will become very trained in remebereing
    details, sequence and dialogue.
  • Head notes things you remember first. You write
    them down in Scratch notes and work them out in
    the evening.

65
Scratch notes
  • Scratch notes are fragmented, key words, frases,
    little quotes or dialogues.
  • Sometimes even scratch notes are not possible
  • Write them up as soon as you leave.
  • Write them up in a moment that you are alone.
  • Write them up as soon as you get home

66
Fieldnotes
  • Theoretical memos?
  • Does your personal reflection belong in your
    diary?
  • Should I start coding in the field?

67
Veldnotities
Blauw Beschrijving van activiteit Rood
Reflectie/Interpretatie Black Theoretisch
hunch gebaseerd op observatie
  • When I got to the office downstairs, Consuelo was
    ripping out the first page of a publications, the
    law of equality, because the first page had the
    name of the ex minister, ex vice minister and ex
    head of department. It was no problem ripping
    them out, and the book looked as if it was
    complete. Elizabeth joined in and said, que
    panta. I think it is nearly symbolic of how
    things go in the ministry. Having few resources,
    and a great deal of changes you become
    resourceful. There were a lot more telephone
    calls today, the boss was sick, and I think I
    began to realize that this department might be
    quite marginal in relation to the rest of the
    departments because it deals with nonmaterial
    things such as gender equity. OF course everyone
    is working hard, but they are really not too much
    movement.

68
Veldnotities (2)
Mariella told me that it was quieter today than
normally because the director of the department
was out of town. However, the speed was
incredible. Mariella took her time had patience
and treated everyone kindly. She made some copies
We started to dispatch papers and ran into the
person responsible for the Patrimony for the
whole ministry (furniture,etc We got to the third
floor to dispatch some documents to the Managing
administrator and these have to go through a man
and he was talking on the phone, using a manly
whiney voice, talking to a woman like a baby si
prechiosa, okay mamita. I ask her if he could be
difficult and she said, Put him under pressure he
will not move but if you treat he very kindly he
will do everything for you. A few days ago I had
a document that was dated the day before, I had
to talk very sweetly to him and explain what
happened so that he would accept. I inquired why
wouldnt he accept a document dated a day earlier
she said because otherwise he can be called
responsible that it took so long for it to get
processed. Telephone. Mariella stops what she is
doing. Answers the phone and calls the person to
the phone. (There are no extensions)There is a
line waiting to talk to Mariella. Assistant of
the deputy director is informally coordinating
with Mariella. When Mariella registers the
incoming mail often she has to write a summary
and underline the important parts so the
directors can go to it immediately. Stamp papers,
sign the paper of a visitor. Took message for the
doctor (director). She has a book in which she
writes down messages and things she has to do
immediately. She makes some copies. Runs to the
phone. Time for a toffee, mmm.  
69
Veldnotities (vervolg)
Sonia asks for a rubber band. She stores office
supplies in a cardboard box below her desk.
Stella finds the document. She returns to the
document she was typing. They call from the
Ministers office asking about activities. She
still hasn't been able to register the first
document. She goes back to the computer program
and registers some documents . Mariella
highlights what has to be read and fills in the
summary thinking about each word that she will
use. Then it goes to the director and comes back
here to be dispatched . If a document is a
routine document it can wait a day before it is
register, but if it comes and an urgent action is
needed it has to be registered the same day. She
has to call someone but Stella asks her a
question. Senora Celia returns and asks for the
stamp. Juan asks her to send an email to the
three offices about the monthly report k. An
urgent document entered from outside, registered
immediately. Fax came with a estimation of the
costs for an event. Telephone rings. Internal
email "what is the name of the head of logistics"
she answers all of these quickly. Deputy director
returns. Mariella makes labels out of paper,
prints them cuts them and pastes them on the
envelop. They do not use prefab labels for
anything. She is finishing printing out and
organizing the contracts. I can't dispatch them
until the deputy director signs them, she is not
here. Stella says there is no toner for the
printer, Mariella, there is one in the storage
room, I will call, she calls and there is . ( all
these things have to be sent as an official
request). She waits for her boss to leave for
lunch and says, she does not go to lunch before
her boss leaves because if she would need
something and she doesn't know where it is and
can't find it I would be thinking about that the
whole time while I was eating .
70
TIME !!!
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