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Chapter 5-8

ANTHROP 3P03 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5-8: 5,6,7,8, Ethnography, Participant Observation

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Ellen Badone

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Commentary: Ethnography Essentials Chapter 5, 6, 7, 8
In chapter five, the author deals with collecting the data and notes needed for
ethnography. The author explains that more notes that are taken, the more efficient the
ethnographer becomes at note taking and writing in general. Part of the ethnographer’s role is to
take note of the ethnographic data as quickly as possible, as it has a fleeting nature, according to
the author. Ethnographies should be as detailed as possible, but the ethnographer should be able
to differentiate between what is important and relevant to the ethnography compared to what is
unnecessary. To achieve this, the notes attained during interviews, using note taking, or
recording, should answer the research question(s). Although interviews require informed
consent, it is worth noting that there is one exception, as the author notes, the exception being
public events. Even if this is the only exception, the ethnographic data still comes from
observing people and being involved. Shouldn’t the people involved at the public events give
some form of consent?
The next chapter deals with gathering ethnographic data through participant observation.
It is curious that while an ethnographer engages in participant observation, they cannot fully be a
participant or an observer. My question would be, despite certain limitations, why can’t an
ethnographer be both a participant but also a detached observer. But as the author explains the
researcher can balance both an ethic and emic perspective gained from the roles as a participant
and observer. Paying attention to informants is critical, as is avoiding deceiving the informants
and anyone involved. The researcher and note taker must pay attention to both repetition and
variation when involved in ethnographic research.
Ethnographic research is a process in which interviews begin rather informal, and as
conversations, which can yield more information that formal interviews. To be a good
ethnographer, one must not only be a good note taker, but must be good at interviewing and
listening to the ‘informant.’ To begin an interview it is easier to start with more personal
questions about the person being interviewed, followed by questions that are more open ended,
and even hypothetical. The questions asked should avoid being ‘simple’ and should avoid
implying the answer is known by the researcher. Once in a while it is a good idea to double-
check the answers on the informant, to check for variability and consistency in the answers, to
see if the person is being honest in their answers.
Chapter eight deals with being able to identify themes that are present in the data
collected, which provides that structure or framework for the ethnography. This is achieved
easier by organizing the notes collected during interviews and participant observation.
Murchison then states, the ethnographer must see what they learned, what they still need to do,
what has changed, how to tweak the ethnography, and how to get feedback from the informants
on the information gathered. I agree with the author when he states that through all these steps,
the ethnography is already being written.
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