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Submitted to Fulfill Research on ELT II Assignment




Ethnography builds on description, analysis and interpretation of data gathered in fieldwork. Ethnographic description is by no means the straight forward unproblematic task it is thought to be in the social sciences. Test this. Select any building on campus or the food court and write a description without using any terms of appraisal. It is very difficult to do. For example, you could say that the food court is a place to eat and I would say what you mean by the term place. Is eating the only activity that occurs in the food court? Description in ethnography is a complex effect, achieved through writing and dependent upon the strategic choice and construction of available detail. The presentation of interpretation and analysis is inseparably bound up with the systematic and vivid representation of a world that seems total and real to the reader. Perhaps the hardest notion to grasp is that the purpose of ethnography is not solely to describe, in the sense of deriving generalizations for behavior. The purpose is to provide a coherent representation of human action, that is, to draw a conclusion through interpretation based on certain descriptive facts. Thus, interpretation depends on the selection and presentation of certain facts. The first selection of facts/data happens in fieldworkwhat you see while you are there or what the people let you see or what seems important to them or based on your own quirky self. A second selection comes when some record from fieldwork provides evidence for some interpretation. The ethnography you will write entails the close study of a local culture through fieldwork which requires many hours at the siteobserving and talking with members of culture, taking notes, interviewing and perhaps participating in the cultures activities.


2.1 Definition of Ethnography According to Ary, (2006: 452) the key characteristic of ethnographic study are: 1) Has its roots in anthropology 2) Studies the naturally occurring behavior of a group 3) Focuses on culture and societal behavior 4) Describes beliefs, values, and attitudes of a group 5) Observation is the primary data collection tool 6) Immersion in the site is important 7) Provides a holistic description of context and cultural themes Ary, further stated that it is the in-depth study of naturally occurring behavior within a culture or entire social group. It seeks to understand the relationship between culture and behavior, with culture referring to the shared beliefs, values, concepts, practices, and attitude of a specific group of people. It examines what people do and interprets why they do it. Another opinion from Hammersley and Atkinson (1995:1) stated that in its most characteristic form...[ethnography] involves the ethnographer participating, overtly or covertly, in peoples daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions- in fact, collecting whatever data are available to throw light on the issues that are the focus of the research. Moreover, Brewer (2000:10) said that ethnography is the study of people in naturally occurring settings or fields by means of methods which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researcher

participating directly in the setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning being imposed on them externally. In other words, ethnographic study is a study about social phenomena within cultures in certain social ethnic and find out the causes behind it. It demands researcher to involve directly in the setting while collecting research data. The product of this study is a cultural portrait that incorporates the views of participants (emic perspective) as well as views of researcher (etic perspective). The emic approach investigates how local people think" (Kottak, 2006). The etic (scientist-oriented) approach shifts the focus from local observations, categories, explanations, and interpretations to those of the anthropologist.

2.2 The Key Characteristics of Ethnographic Design The characteristics typically mark an ethnographic study: 1) Cultural Themes 2) A Culture-Sharing Group 3) Shared patterns of behavior, belief , and language 4) Fieldwork 5) Description, themes, and interpretation 6) Context or Setting 7) Researcher Reflexivity

Cultural Themes Ethnographers typically study cultural themes drawn from cultural anthropology. Ethnographers do not venture into the field looking haphazardly

for anything they might see. Instead, they are interested in adding to the knowledge about culture and studying specific cultural themes.

A Culture-Sharing Group In the study of a group, ethnographers identify a single site (elementary classroom), locate a group within it (reading group), and gather data about the group (observe a reading period). This distinguishes

ethnography from other forms of qualitative research that focus on individuals rather than groups of people. A culture-sharing group in ethnography is two or more individuals who have shared behaviors, beliefs, and language.

Shared patterns of behavior, belief, and language Ethnographic researchers look for shared patterns of behavior, beliefs, and language that the culture-sharing group adopts over time. A behavior in ethnography is an action taken by an individual in a cultural setting. A belief in ethnography is how an individual thinks about or perceives things in a cultural setting. Language in ethnography is how an individual talks to others in a cultural setting.

Fieldwork Ethnographers collect data through spending time at participants sites where they live, work, or play. To understand best patterns of a cultural group, an ethnographer spends considerable time with the group. The patterns cannot be easily discerned through questionnaires or brief encounters. Instead, the ethnographer goes to the field, lives with or frequently visits the people being studied and slowly learns the cultural ways in which the group behaves or thinks.

Fieldwork in ethnography means that the researcher gathers data in the setting where the participants are located and where their shared patterns can be studied. This data collection involves the following: 1) Emic Data is information supplied by participants in a study. 2) Etic Data is information representing the ethnographers' interpretation of the participants perspectives. 3) Negotiation Data consists of information that the participant and the researcher agree to use in a study. Negotiation occurs at different stages in research, such as agreeing to entry procedures for a research site, mutually respecting individuals at the site, and developing a plan for giving back or reciprocating with the individuals.

Description, themes, and interpretation A description in ethnography is a detailed rendering of individuals and scenes in order to depict what is going on in the culture-sharing group. Theme analysis moves away from reporting the facts to making an interpretation of people and activities. After description and analysis comes interpretation. In interpretation, the ethnographer draws inferences and forms conclusions about what was learned.

Context or Setting The context for ethnography is the setting, situation, or environment that surrounds the cultural group being studied.

Researcher Reflexivity Ethnographic researchers make interpretations and write their report reflexively. Reflexivity in ethnography refers to the researcher being aware of

and openly discussing his or her role in the study in a way that honors and respects the site and participants.

2.3 The Reason of Choosing Ethnographic Study Ethnography is most appropriately used for inquiry that requires: 1) in-depth understanding 2) rich narratives (if using qualitative interviews), 3) empathy and experience 4) Social phenomena being studied over a period of time. 5) An understanding of the social meanings constructed by individuals themselves and the significance and nature of the practices they engage in 6) Topics not easily accessible through simple face-to-face interviews, 7) topics which involve examining processes of change, examining negotiated lived experiences, topics which see culture as constructed and reconstructed through actors participation are especially suited to participant observation and ethnography (OReilly, 2005: 29).

2.4 Approaches in Ethnography According to Creswell (2007) describes two approaches to ethnography. They are realist ethnography and critical ethnography. 2.4.1 Realist Ethnography This branch of ethnographic research seeks to observe the different behaviours of a given group such as; social groups, communication networks, family structures, etc. These observations are intended to be as objective as possible. The researcher will identify characteristics of observed behaviour more as a recorder of events. Traditional or realist ethnography of this kind

purports to give an objective account by reporting facts, the researcher remaining a neutral voice in the background. The characteristics of realist ethnography are 1) The realist ethnographer narrates the study in a third-person dispassionate voice and reports on observations of participants and their views. The ethnographer does not offer personal reflections in the research report and remains in the background as an omniscient reporter of the facts.

2) The researcher reports objective data in a measured style uncontained by personal bias, political goals, and judgment. The researcher may provide details of everyday life among the people studied. The ethnographer also uses standard categories for cultural description (family, work life, social networks, and status systems). 3) The ethnographer produces the participants view through closely edited quotations and has the final word on the interpretation and presentation of the culture. (Van Maanen, 1988)

2.4.2 Critical Ethnography In this approach, the researcher takes an advocacy perspective. Critical ethnography is qualitative research methodology that enables the researcher to not only study and understand society, but also to critique and potentially change that society through his or her work. The major components of a critical ethnography are: 1) Critical researchers are usually politically minded people. 2) Critical ethnographers speak to an audience on behalf of their participants as a means of empowering participants by giving them more authority. 3) Critical ethnographers seek to change the society.

4) Critical ethnographers identify and celebrate their biases in research. They recognize that all research is value laden. 5) Critical ethnographers challenge the status quo and ask why it is so. 6) Critical researchers seek to connect the meaning of a situation to broader structures of social power and control. 7) Critical researchers seek to create a literal dialogue with the participants they are studying.

2.5 Advantages and Disadvantages of Ethnographic Study The main benefit is its observation of behavior in a real life setting, the assumption being that human behavior can be fully understood only by knowing the setting in which it occurs. Second, ethnographies can account for the complexity of group behaviors, reveal interrelationships among multifaceted dimensions of group interactions, and provide context for behaviors. By expanding the range of knowledge and understanding of the world, researchers often are able to understand why behaviors occur, rather than just noting the occurrence. The main limitation is that the findings depend heavily on the particular researchers observations and interpretations of the data. Ethnography is time consuming and requires a well-trained researcher. It takes time to build trust with informants in order to facilitate full and honest discourse. Short-term studies are at a particular disadvantage in this regard. Bias on the part of the researcher can affect both the design of the study and the collection and interpretation of data. Too little data may lead to false assumptions about behavior patterns, while large quantities of data may not be processed effectively

2.6 Steps of Ethnographic Study Spradley (1980) identified the sequence of steps comprising the methodology of ethnographic research: 1) Selecting an ethnographic project. The scope of these projects can vary greatly from studying a entire complex society, such as an Inuit hunting group in Alaska, to studying a single social situation or institution, such as an urban bar, a fraternity, or a school playground. The beginner would be wise to restrict the scope of his or her project to a single social situation so that it can be completed in a reasonable time. A social situation always has three components: a place, actors, and activities. 2) Asking ethnographic questions. The researcher has questions in mind to guide what he or she sees and hears and the collection of data. 3) Collecting ethnographic data. The researcher does fieldwork to find out the activities of the people, the physical characteristics of the situation, and what it feels like to be part of the situation. This step generally begins with an overview comprising broad descriptive observations. Then, after looking at the data, you move on to more focused observations. Here, you use participant observation, in-depth interviews, and so on to gather data. 4) Making an ethnographic record. This step includes taking field notes and photographs, making maps, and using any other appropriate means to record the observations. 5) Analyzing ethnographic data. The fieldwork is always followed by data analysis, which leads to new questions and new hypotheses, more data collection and field notes, and more analysis. The cycle continues until the project is completed. 6) Writing the ethnography. The ethnography should be written so that the culture or group is brought to life, making readers feel that they understand the people and their way of life or the situation and the

people in it. The ethnographic report can range in length from several pages to a volume or two. The writing must be detailed and concrete, not generalized or vague.

Brewer (2000:134) argues that ethnographic accounts should be structured by the following: 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) Describing the context number of participants (esp. Key individuals) Activities Time and order of research Routines and variations (social rules and basic patterns of order) Significant events Members perspectives and meanings Variety of voices and perspectives in the field (complexity) Reflection on research design, method, data, and findings

2.6 Ethnographic Data Collection Technique There are some ethnographic data collection techniques: 2.6.1 Triangulation Method Triangulation is the process of strengthening the findings obtained from a qualitative inquiry by cross-checking information. A researcher who argues that his or her findings are derived from many different kinds of people across many different situations will be more convincing than another researcher whose conclusions are based observations of one person in one setting (Potter, 1996). There are three types of triangulation (Patton, 1999; Denzin, 1978): 1) Methods Triangulation The use of multiple research methods to study a phenomenon (see Figure 2.3). For example, you examine the lesson plans of a history teacher (document examination) and then

observe her teaching using the lesson plan (observation). At the end the lesson, you follow-up by interviewing the teacher regarding what was planned and what was actually performed in the classroom. 2) Investigator Triangulation The use of multiple investigators (i.e. multiple researchers) in collecting and interpreting the data. 3) Theory Triangulation The use of multiple theories and perspectives to help interpret and explain the data. Triangulation is used in bringing together different sources of information to converge or conform to one interpretation. With the convergence of information from different sources (documents, interviews and observations), settings and investigators, the researcher can make a powerful argument that the interpretation is more credible. 2.6.2 Observation Imagine that you want to find out what goes on in the teachers lounge or staff room. You could interview those involved, or maybe even send out a questionnaire. Using the interview or the questionnaire, you would be getting what people thought about what was going on. Sometimes, the best way to gain a rich picture of a setting such as the staff room, the school canteen, a staff meeting, the playground or the classroom is to see for yourself what is happening, rather than depending on your respondents.

Passive Observer

Observation is the technique of obtaining data through direct contact with a persons or group of persons. Since, the main focus of qualitative research is naturalism; the researcher has to observe person or persons in their natural state as undisturbed as possible. The role of the researcher may be viewed as a continuum. On one extreme, the researcher is a passive observer and on the other extreme the researcher is a participant observer. In between these two extremes, the researcher may be an active observer (Potter, 1996).

Passive Observer

Active Observer

Participant Observer

1) Passive observer: The best way to be not involved and keep you distance from your subjects is to be a passive observer. As a passive observer, you simply gather documents and observe the individual or individuals without doing anything to disturb the situation. The researcher is unobtrusive and watches the group from the outside; i.e. the ethic or outsiders perspective. To do so, the researcher must gain access and be accepted by the individual or individuals being observed. For example, in collecting emails or essays written by subjects or learning journals of students, the researcher examines them without being involved. Similarly, when a researcher interested in studying children interacting in school canteens or the playground, merely observes them without being involved. A certain amount of distance is maintained between the researcher and the person or persons being observed. 2) Participant Observation: As the name participant suggests, the researcher participates in the activities of the persons being observed rather than being an observer. The researcher has two roles as observer and as participant. The researcher participates as much as possible in the daily life of the subjects while also carefully observing everything he or she can about it. Through this, the researcher is seeking to gain what is called an

emic perspective or the natives point of view or the insiders perspective. The researcher records detailed field notes, conduct interview based on open-ended questions and gather whatever site documents might be available in the setting as data. Participation can take many forms. For example, the researcher could show a film or video to stimulate discussion or question subjects and observe how they would react to the stimulus. The researcher takes an active position with the purpose of stimulating subjects to think about things they might never have thought about before. However, as pointed out by Hammersley and Atkinson (1983), there is the danger of the researcher going native which means being too involved or having too close a rapport with the person or persons being observed to the extent that you lose objectivity. 3) Active Observer: Between being a passive observer and an active participant, the researcher could take a middle position of being an active observer. Here, participation is allowed but limited. The researcher may intrude into the lives of subjects such as entering their homes or their communities but remains passive once inside the environment so as not to influence the natural occurring behaviors and conversations. For example, a researcher interested in TV viewing habits may enter a household, eat with the family, play with the children and take part in family activities. Family members are told not to change their routines in order to accommodate the observer. However, the researcher tries as far as possible to be passive, saying as little as possible so as not to influence the behaviors and conversations of subjects.

There are four focuses of observation according to Taylor-Power and Steele (1996) 1) characteristics of participants; values, attitudes, skill and knowledge levels 2) interactions in a social situations a. unconscious behavior

b. level of participation c. power relationships d. climate in the research settings under study 3) nonverbal behavior a. facial expressions, gestures b. interests and commitments 4) physical surroundings

There are some techniques for collecting data through observation (Hancock,, 2009:19) 1) 2) 3) 4) Written descriptions Video recordings Artifacts Taking picture

The researcher can record observations of people, a situation or an environment by making notes of what has been observed. The limitations of this are similar to those of trying to write down interview data as an interview takes place. First there is a risk that the researcher will miss out on observations because she/he is writing about the last thing she/he noticed. Secondly, researcher may find her/his attention focusing on a particular event or feature because it appears to be particularly interesting or relevant and miss things which are equally or more important but their importance is not recognized or acknowledged at the time. Video recording frees the observer from the task of making notes at the time and allows events to be reviewed repeatedly. One disadvantage of video recording is that the actors in the social world may be more conscious of the camera than they would be of a person and that this will affect their behavior. They may even try to avoid being filmed. This problem can be lessened by having the camera placed at a fixed point rather than being carried around.

Artefacts may be objects which inform us about a phenomenon under study because of their significance to the phenomenon.

2.6.3 Field notes One of the primary tools of ethnographic study is the use of field notes. Some observers begin with a blank notebook and write down everything that takes place. Others may use audio or video tapes. Still others begin with a list of behavior categories to note. Field notes should be written as soon as possible after leaving the field site to minimize the possibility of forgetting important details. Field notes should include the following information: date, time and place of observation; specific facts and details of site activities; sensory impressions such as sights, sounds, textures, smells, tastes; specific words, phrases, summaries of conversations and insider language; questions about people or behaviors for future investigations; and page numbers to help keep observations in order (Chiseri-Strater, 1997, p. 73). While methods of writing field notes can be very personal, they generally are divided into four components, which should be kept distinct from one another in some way. Jottings are the brief words or phrases written down while at the field site. Usually recorded in a small notebook, jottings are intended to serve as reminders for more complete notes to be written later. A description of the eventa meal, a ritual, a meetingincluding specific details as well as general information is an integral part of the field notes. An analysis of the observation may help to identify themes, questions for subsequent visits, and preliminary connections. Finally, a reflection on the research from a personal point of view should be included.

2.6.4 Interview Interview is commonly used in collecting qualitative data. Interviews are used to gather data from people about opinions, beliefs, and feelings about situations in their own words. Interviews are mostly used in qualitative research to collect research related information (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000) about 1) knowledge of the people 2) opinions, e.g. likes or dislikes 3) what persons are thinking about 4) attitudes 5) motivations. There are structured and unstructured interview. In structured interview, researcher has constructed the questions to be asked while in unstructured, interview flows as natural as conversation. Semi or partially interview is also exist, the area of interest is chosen and questions are formulated but the questions might be changed, added, or omitted as the interview runs.


Ethnographic study is a study about social phenomena within cultures in certain social ethnic and find out the causes behind it. Its purpose to understand the relationship between culture and behavior, with culture referring to the shared beliefs, values, concepts, practices and attitude of a specific group of people. There are some key characteristics of ethnographic design. Ethnography used approaches such as realist ethnography and critical ethnography. Techniques in ethnography study includes of triangulation method, observation, fields note, and interview. The steps in ethnographic study should be paid attention to make good research furthermore culture is unique phenomenon which needs to investigate deeply to get meaning of the culture itself. The product of this study is a cultural portrait that involved the views of participants (emic perspective) as well as views of researcher (etic perspective).

Ary, Donald, 2010. Introduction to Research in Education: Eight Edition. USA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning. Baxter, Pamela and Susan Jack. Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice Researchers. The Qualitative Report Volume 13 Number 4 December 2008 544-559 available at Accessed on Thursday 19th September 2013 at 07.02 pm. Brewer, John D. 2000. Ethnography. UK: Open University Press. Creswell, John W. 1994. Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. USA: SAGE Publications. De Clerck, Helene Marie Lou. 2011. Instruments and Guidelines for Qualitative Fieldwork. Eumagine Project Paper. Hammersly, M. and Atkinson, P. 2007. Ethnography: Principal in Practice (Third Edition), London and New York: Routledge. Hancock, Beverley, 2009. An Introduction to Qualitative Research. England: National Institute for Health Research. Available at Accessed on 24th September 2013 at 05.03 pm.