The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects

By Martyn Denscombe | Go to book overview

6

Ethnography
The term ethnography literally means a description of peoples or cultures. It has its origins as a research strategy in the works of the early social anthropologists, whose aim was to provide a detailed and permanent account of the cultures and lives of small, isolated tribes. Such tribes were seen, with some justification, as 'endangered species', and the social anthropologists saw the need to map out those cultures before they became contaminated by contact with the industrial world or withered away to extinction.The image of the pith-helmeted outsider dressed in khaki shorts arriving on the shores of some remote and exotic palm tree island to set up camp and study the lives of the 'native' has become legendary – largely through the works of people like Bronislaw Malinowski (1922) and Margaret Mead (1943). The concerns of such social anthropologists and the research strategy they employed set the scene for much of what is undertaken as 'ethnography' today.Ethnography, based on the early anthropological origins of the term and on subsequent developments by influential classics in the field (e.g. Whyte 1981), has the following characteristics.
It requires the researcher to spend considerable time in the field among the people whose lives and culture are being studied. The ethnographer needs to share in the lives rather than observe from a position of detachment. Extended fieldwork allows for a journey of discovery in which the explanations for what is being witnessed emerge over a period of time.
Routine and normal aspects of everyday life are regarded as worthy of consideration as research data. The mundane and the ordinary parts of social life are just as valid as the special events and ceremonies which can all too easily capture our attention.
There is special attention given to the way the people being studied see their

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The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Strategies for Social Research 3
  • 1: Surveys 6
  • 2: Case Studies 30
  • 3: Internet Research 41
  • 4: Experiments 61
  • 5: Action Research 73
  • 6: Ethnography 84
  • 7: Phenomenology 96
  • 8: Grounded Theory 109
  • Part II - Methods of Social Research 131
  • 9: Questionnaires 144
  • 10: Interviews 163
  • 11: Observation 192
  • 12: Documents 212
  • Part III - Analysis 231
  • 13: Quantitative Data 236
  • 14: Qualitative Data 267
  • 15: Writing Up the Research 284
  • Frequently Asked Questions 299
  • References 302
  • Index 307
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