Research Methods 6 Summary: Learn the unexpected by leaving the office and observing people in their natural environment.
In this second post, I share the steps I go through to squeeze an ethnographic experience into what are admittedly short, one-term courses 12 weeks.
Here are my five steps: Explore Sending students out into the world is less institutionally daunting than it may seem. Course theme and coincidence largely guide my choice as to how to structure where students will do their observations.
I have sent all my students to the same place and have let them choose their own—both ways work. In a third year Politics of Indigeneity course, I had students watch patrons pass through or not the Aboriginal Canadian exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum.
This challenges them not to leap to a criticism of the exhibit, but to attend to what happens through it. I keep the instructions simple: There are great sources out there on writing field notes.
My preference is to have students read thematic content, and so I accept that the exercise of writing an ethnographic paper for early undergraduates is an incomplete introduction to fieldwork.
Instead of readings, I show them student samples I find online from similar courses and I share my own field notes. Many students want to search for an authoritative voice for note taking. Usually this means listing demographic facts in the hopes of sounding thorough or scientific.
I try and show them how this leaves little to work with when writing time comes. The less they put into the notes the harder it is for me to pull a paper out. First-time ethnographic papers feel a bit like grabbing a rabbit out of a hat—there is some degree of hocus pocus involved.
I admit this piece is much easier in smaller courses where you can meet one-on-one with students. The hardest part is getting them to see their field site as a window into a debate, and not an exploration of the site for itself. The rabbit goes where it goes and their job is to follow.
These are the best moments if they are open to the chase. Once I see the themes of the papers emerge, I group students into research communities.
They almost always cluster well, with only one or two real outliers. In larger classes, I reorganize tutorial groups by these shared interests.
I decide on key article s they should read. Sometimes this means asking colleagues or TAs, if you are lucky to have them. The requirement for the final assignment is to put their field materials into conversation with the targeted reading, and any others from the course. This anchors all the papers in the group to a debate.
Revisit I almost always have them do multiple visits because it usually opens up their observation skills and brings in richer data. Write To get them into the flavor and feel of ethnographic writing, I start one or two classes with free writing exercises geared at getting them to find their voice, or the story they are going to tell.
I do these exercises along with them so they can see that thoughts wander and some pieces will be good, while others need work—lots of work. A full-blown paper may not always be the best way to assess what they have learned.The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University houses writing resources and instructional material, and we provide these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue.
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In an ethnographic field research project, your data comes from observing or interviewing people in everyday social settings, which are known as “the field.” The data are gathered when a researcher visits the setting (allowing him/her to conduct observational research).
“The idea of threshold concepts emerged from a UK national research project into the possible characteristics of strong teaching and learning environments in the disciplines for undergraduate education (Enhancing Teaching-Learning Environments in Undergraduate Courses).
What is Ethnographic Research? Anthropologists, ethnographers, and other social scientists may engage in something called ethnography.
Ethnography, simply stated, is the study of people in their own environment through the use of methods such as participant observation and face-to-face interviewing. The purpose of a field report in the social sciences is to describe the observation of people, places, and/or events and to analyze that observation data in order to identify and categorize common themes in relation to the research problem underpinning the study.
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