ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH

Overview

Ethnography is a form of research focusing on the sociology of meaning through close field observation of sociocultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a community (not necessarily 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 representative of the community, using chain sampling to obtain a saturation of informants in all empirical areas of investigation. Informants are interviewed multiple times, using information from previous informants to elicit clarification and deeper responses upon re-interview. This process is intended to reveal common cultural understandings related to the phenomena under study. These subjective but collective understandings on a subject (ex., stratification) are often interpreted to be more significant than objective data (ex., income differentials).

It should be noted that ethnography may be approached from the point of view of art and cultural preservation, and as a descriptive rather than analytic endeavor. The comments here, however, focus on social science analytic aspects. In this focus, ethnography is a branch of cultural anthropology.

Related information is contained in the "blue book" volumes on content analysis and on case study research.

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Below is the unformatted table of contents.

Table of Contents

Key Concepts and Terms	5
The ethnographic method	5
Definition	5
Types of ethnographic method	6
The research environment	7
Immersion	7
Situational reduction	8
Theory	8
Symbols	9
Cultural patterning	9
Tacit knowledge	10
Assumptions	11
Frequently Asked Questions	12
Isn't ethnography a subjective rather than scientific social science research method?	12
What are the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF)?	12
Bibliography	14