Ethnographic Methods

“I thoroughly enjoyed this class. Through the exercises, I was able to practice exactly how one goes about writing ethnographic pieces. I learned that writing ethnographically is an art in that one must practice the skill and present data in a specific way, distinct to anthropology. Knowing how to conduct an ethnography was one of the most important lessons in my college experience. I really loved studying [topic], and I would like to continue the research, or at least write more on the subject. I don’t think twelve pages were enough to include everything that I wanted to include. One of the most surprising things about writing up the ethnography was realizing that I was using my own data to make conclusions. I was citing my own research and synthesizing quotes to better understand a subject. Writing the paper in the library, I realized that I didn’t need the Internet—I only needed [information published by the organization I studied], the fieldnotes and the interviews in my hand. This reminded me why I decided to study anthropology a few years ago. I feel that I am more prepared and more knowledgeable about what “doing research” actually means.”

“I find this style of class to be well-suited to anthropology, because in this discipline there is no one truth that we are seeking to discover. Findings are interpretations and attempts at making sense of “reality” based on characteristics of/and choices made by the ethnographers.”

“I liked how open-ended the assignments were, and how they allowed us as students to chose a topic that really interested us. I think strategically choosing a topic that interests and matters to me (and carrying the topic through to each of the assignments in the course) made a huge difference in the enjoyability of the course. I found the assignments to be very work and time intensive at times, but it wasn’t bad because of the enjoyable topic that I chose to study. This really underlines the importance of choosing a topic that interests you for class assignments, essays in other subjects, future careers, etc.”

This course provides an introduction to ethnographic methods used in anthropological research. The primary goal of this course is for students to gain theoretical and practical knowledge of ethnographic methods through a combination of readings, discussions, and fieldwork exercises. In doing so, students will learn about formulating research questions and selecting field sites, participant observation, interviewing, ethical concerns in ethnography, new directions in anthropological research, and analyzing and writing up research findings. This class will also introduce students to the inductive practice of using ethnographic data to develop social, cultural, and theoretical insights. In class sessions, students will discuss each other’s fieldwork findings and research experiences in order to address questions, concerns, and problems that arise in the actual practice of ethnographic research.