Chapter 2: Research Methods in Anthropology
Types of Research in Anthropology:
2. Within-Culture Comparisons
3. Regional Controlled Comparisons
4. Cross-Cultural Research
5. Historical Research
1. ETHNOGRAPHY - living among the people you are studying, taking part in the
culture/rituals/important events and carefully questioning the people about their native customs.
This method is known as PARTICIPANT-OBSERVATION. This falls under the broader scope of
FIELDWORK in general. FIELDWORK is the cornerstone of modern anthro. Participant-
Observation (conducted for a year or more) is considered fundamental to anthropology.
*struggles that accompany this include learning both the language and the proper ways to
behave. There is also a difficult balance between subjectivity and objectivity conflated in the
process of participant-observation. One must find informants as well who can give a broader
perspective of context outside of just a year or two of living with a group. Usually these
informants are marginalized people in their culture who are willing to spend time with the
visiting anthropologists and discuss their culture at length. More systematic methods are also
involved in the fieldwork such as mapping, house to house censuses, behaviour observations, as
well as focused interviews with a sample of informants.
2. WITHIN-CULTURE COMPARISONS - collecting census data within the culture to compare
individuals, families, households, communities, or districts.
3. REGIONAL CONTROLLED COMPARISONS - comparing ethnographic information
obtained from societies found in a particular region, societies that presumabley have similar
histories and occupy similar environments to fish out causes and inconsistencies.
4. CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH - The most common use of worldwide comparisons has
been to test explanations. Researchers identify conditions that wshoudl generally be associated if
a particular theory is correct and then test to seee if it holds true.Alot of their information is
found on SCCS and eHRAF.
5. HISTORICAL RESEARCH - Ethnohistory consists of studies based on descriptive materials
about a single society at more than one point in time. May consist of reports that were not
prepared by anthropologists, those of explorers, missionaries, traders, and gov officials.
***an important goal in anthropology is to explain variation in cultural patterns—to specify what
conditions will favour one cultural pattern rather than another.
EVIDENCE OF THE PAST
1. ARTIFACTS - anything made or modified by humans. most artifacts that make up the
archaeological record are human's mundane waste (ie, used pens, dull razors, etc). Most common
artifacts of the past are LITHICS (stone tools). Indeed, this is the only kind of artifact for 99% of
2. ECOFACTS - natural objects that humans have used or affected. ie bone from animal human has eaten. somewhat like artifact but it hasn't been modified by human, just used and discarded.
pollens from different plants brought back to an encampment. insects or pests that associate or
live off of humans.
3. FOSSILS - although rare, particularly informative. fossils include impressions on stone of
different animals and, of course, bones. it takes very special circumstances to preserve bones.
4. FEATURES - distinguished from artifacts because they cannot be removed from an
archaeological site. Hearths for example, where a fire was built. most common feature by far are
called PITS, simply holes dug by humans that are later filled with garbage or eroded soil. Fairly
easy to distinguish because the garbage or soil they are filled with is often different in colour and
texture from the soil. Living floors are compacted areas scattered with minute pieves of garbage
(small stone flakes, beads, seeds). When this area is very large it is called a Midden (these can be
garbage dumps used again and again for long periods of time like caves). Buildings are also
considered features. These can include stone rings just used to hold down tents.
FINDING THE EVIDENCE OF THE PAST
- sites are created when remnants of human activity are covered by natural processes (wind,
falling leaves, floods, volcanos)
- humans often reuse good locations to live and work in so many sites contain the remains of
numerous human occupations.
- stratified sites are best for anthropologists. this is where the burial process worked quickly
enough that each use of the site is clearly separated from the prev