Chapter 9 - Ethnography & Participant Observation Flashcards Preview

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Flashcards in Chapter 9 - Ethnography & Participant Observation Deck (35):

ethnography/participant observation

researcher is emersed in a group of people for a long time, observing behaviour, listening to what subjects have to say, asking questions. Typically supplemnted with further research through documents/interviews, especially for unclear or unobservable behaviour


participant observation = ethnography?

yes, but ethnography will be used as a broader term that includes participant observation


ethnography is difficult to generalize, which means....

research is often carried out for knowledge for the sake of knowledge


what is the most difficult step of ethnography/participant observation?

gaining access


open vs closed setting

-open = areas anyone can gain access like libraries, parks, sidewalks
-closed includes organizations of various kinds like schools, cults, social movements


how to gain access

use connections, get someone in organization to vouch for you, offer something in return, provide clear explanations of aims/methods, be prepared to negotiate, be frank about how much time you'll need



people who must grant access to research setting



people who vouch for the researcher in order to get them access to research setting


difficulties of ongoing access

people may start getting suspicious
groups will worry about their responses getting back to the boss
might sabatoge if suspicious


risks of offering something in return for access to research setting

risk of making researcher a cheap consultant
risk of being forced to sensor/alter results (to avoid this, allow access to the final report, and not a working draft)


how to maintain ongoing access in closed settings

play up credentials, don't give people a reason to dislike you, play a role


how to maintain ongoing access in closed settings

have a plan for allaying suspicions, be prepared for tests of competence/credibility, and for changes in circumstances


overt vs covert

covert role does not disclose to subjects that you are a researcher


distinction between overt/covert is...



retrospective ethnography

using observations collected before decision to conduct study was made


pros and cons of covert role

+grants easier access
+lessens reactivity
-problem with taking notes
-not being able to interview
-anxiety regarding detection
-ethical problems


key informants

informants who develop an understanding of research and are able to identify situations, events, or people likely to be helpful.


pros and cons of key informants

+provide support
+lessen stress
-undue reliance can result in narrow perspective


different roles of ethnographers

complete participant, participant as observer, observer as participant, complete observer


complete participant

covert observer; fully functioning member of social setting whose true identity is unknown to participants


participant as observer

a complete participant who plays an overt role; risk of overidentification


observer as participant

researcher is mainly interviewer and observer, participate marginally in group activities ; risk of making incorrect references


complete observer

no interaction with people observed; usually not considered an ethnography; less risk of reactivity, less understanding


active vs passive ethnography

some ethnographers think lack of participation will be interpreted as a lack of commitment to group, thus lack of credibility, which can be dangerous in high risk/illegal activity. passive participation is much more dangerous in covert role


how to take field notes

write down notes ASAP, write full field notes at the end of the day at least, allow for plenty of time for transcribing tape recordings, notes must be vivid, clear, complete


taking notes in real time...

is best, but can make people feel self-conscious


what is the difficulty with tape recorders?

takes long time to transcribe, might pick up extraneous noise


mental notes

useful when you can't look like you're taking notes, but must recorded as soon as possible


jotted notes

aka scratch or rough notes. brief notes to jog memory about events to be recorded later, like little phrases, quotes, and key words


full field notes

main data source, as much data as possible, even if it's irrelevant because it might become relevant


analytic memos

additional thoughts on what data could mean, helps bridge gap between concepts and data, kept separately from data


visual ethnography

used as memory aids, sources of data, or prompts for discussion


realist framework

material simply captures an event or setting that become fact for researchers; rarely flies in sociology


reflexive framework

entails awareness of and sensitivity to ways in which researchers determine what images mean; frequently collaborative


when does ethnography come to an end?

natural end (ex: rave scene declining)
occupational/personal/family reasons
threshold of stress for researcher
saturation point has been reached