Ethnographic Methods

Ethnographic Methods

Ethnographic Methods

Ethnographic Methods

Synopsis

Ethnography isn't a prescribed set of methods - it's a methodology that acknowledges the complexity of human experience and the need to research it by close and sustained observation of human behaviour. In this comprehensive yet highly compact introduction, Karen O'Reilly introduces the reader to the technical, practical and philosophical issues that arise when employing traditional and innovative research methods in relation to human agents. It invites the reader to engage in reflexive and creative research that draws critically and creatively from the full range of qualitative methods. Using case studies of students' work to illustrate the dilemmas and resolutions that an ethnographic researcher may encounter, this textbook guides the reader from the initial design and planning stages through to the analysis and writing-up. It explores the historical and philosophical foundations of ethnographic research and goes on to cover a range of relevant topics such as participant observation, qualitative interviews, (focus) group interviews and visual data collection and analysis. Designed primarily for undergraduates, this book incorporates complex methodological debates which will also engage more experienced researchers, perhaps coming to ethnography for the first time.

Excerpt

I am very enthusiastic about ethnographic research. It involves the application of the full range of methods available to any researcher in a way that is obvious to common sense, is close to the way we all make sense of the world around us in our daily lives, and yet can be scientifically rigorous and systematic at the same time. It cannot but be the best way to learn about phenomena ranging from what older people mean by the term quality of life, to why it might be that young people end up homeless. However, ethnography is difficult to define because it is used in different ways in different disciplines with different traditions. Let's explore how it is described by other authors.

Exemplifying the breadth of ethnography within the social sciences, Stephanie Taylor (2002) brings together a collection of ethnographic studies, including Valerie Hey's (1997) work on schoolgirls' friendships and Lesley Griffiths' (1998) study of how humour is used as a strategy by health care workers to mediate instructions from powerful professionals. The studies range methodologically from what Taylor calls a conventional ethnography, 'for which the ethnographer makes the enormous personal investment of moving into a community for an extended period', to a team project drawing on several discrete methods of formal data collection. However, for Taylor, ethnography essentially involves empirical work, especially observation, with the aim of producing

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