Ethnography

What is the difference between a case study and an ethnography?

In ethnography, you have a participant observer. Emic = “insider’s perspective” –> the researcher allows meaning to emerge from the observations. Must be immersed in the environment to do this research. True ethnography provides a window to culture. The purpose of an ethnography is to arrive at an alter/native interpretation. You must simultaneously become Other, while remaning “native” as a participant (observer). So how do you accomplish this–get outside yourself and observe? The answer is triangulation: position yourself differently in relation to a single entity.

3 kinds of triangulation (look for these when evaluating ethnographies):

  1. Theoretical – Will consist of hypotheses from different fields/theoretical perspectives, e.g. The hypotheses are meaning-making tools. You’re always looking for the factors that are potentially influencing the phenomena in qualitative research. This speaks highly of the reliability and validity of the research. The point here is to explain your biases (lenses) as a researcher. The claim of objectivity therefore never happens in ethnography.
  2. Methodological – Mixed methods approach is key. (This is actually rarely implemented, though.)
  3. Data collection – Objective here is to prove to your audience that you’ve looked at all possible sources of information that would impact the phenomena under study. Have a wide net, in other words. (This is the most common and commonly implemented source of triangulation.)

In a case study, you’re an observer who overtly intervenes. Etic = “outsider’s perspective” –> more analysis-driven. Researcher approaches study with preconceived hypothesis. Immersion still occurs within the enviornment, but the intent is to confirm or deny hypotheses with the gathered data and analysis.  Main object of study here is an individual, vs. in an ethnography where a whole culture is under study. 

Things you must have to write a proposal which includes traditional ethnography as a methodology:

  1. Your research question must inquire which factors influence behavior in an enviornment. 
  2. You must justify the enviornment you select, and the particular individuals in that enviornment to examine in your study. Enviornment will limit/characterize the generalizations you’ll be able to make. In a traditional ethnography, you will want to be able to generalize to a fairly significant degree.
  3. You must include a theoretical triangulation, which gives you your competing hypotheses. The question is: “which of these theories offers the most explanitory power of the enviornment/culture/phenomena under study.” You strive to have elegant explanations. If you only have one hypothesis, you’re NOT doing a traditional ethnography. You need at least two.
  4. Triangulate data, after it’s collected. Look at all the angles, all the data points. Strive to demonstrate thoroughness and comprehensiveness.
  5. Explain how you will do your data analysis. (Coding, using multiple coders, e.g.)
     Procedure for coding:
    –  Create unit/s of measurement (driven by your hypotheses)  
    –  Create categories and put the data into those buckets
    –  Look for patterns in the data
  6. Explain what you expect to see. Explain that there is liklihood that you’ll actually be contributing to the field. 
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