Ethnography, however, is in fact a special kind of qualitative research. As first practiced by anthropologists and sociologists, ethnography was the process in which researchers spent long periods of time living with and observing other cultures in a natural setting. The notion of ethnography has been adapted to other areas: political science, education, social work, and communication. These disciplines have been less interested in describing the way of life of an entire culture and more concerned with analyzing smaller units: subgroups, organizations, institutions, professions, audiences, and so on.
Ethnography can be grouped into two categories:
Descriptive ethnography is the more conventional approach . In contrast, critical ethnography makes use of the critical paradigm
For example, a critical ethnographic study of the role of TAMIL-language radio in the LOCAL community
It puts the researcher in the middle of the topic under study; the researcher goes to the data rather than the other way around.
· It emphasizes studying an issue or topic from the participants' frame of reference.
· It involves spending a considerable amount of time in the field.
· It uses a variety of research techniques, including observation, interviewing, diary keeping, analysis of existing documents, photography, videotaping, and so on.
Ethnographic research relies upon an assortment of data collection techniques. Ethnographic research generally uses several of the four common qualitative techniques discussed in this chapter: field observations, intensive interviewing, focus groups, and case studies.
Conducting Ethnographic Research
The initial stage is to define the problem or phenomenon to be explored. Questions that are most appropriate to ethnography involve examining how a particular group of people view or perceive a certain phenomenon. The ultimate goal of the ethnographer is to try to understand the world as seen by the group under study.
An ethnographic researcher will generally use purposive sampling. This sampling can be refined by using key informants, long-time members of the group under study who have expert knowledge of the group's routines, activities and communication patterns.
Using the knowledge provided by the informants, the researcher determines what behaviors to observe, where and when to observe them, what individuals to single out for intensive interviews, and what key documents might be relevant to analyze.
Four Types Of Field Notes:
1. Condensed accounts—short descriptions written or recorded in the field that highlight the most important factors that were observed or brought up during an interview. These descriptions are helpful in highlighting what is to be emphasized in later accounts.
2. Expanded accounts—written after the period of observation or after the interview, filling in details not included in the condensed version. These documents should be as complete and thorough as possible. In ethnographic research it is better to have too much detail .
3. Fieldwork journal—lists the researcher's personal reactions, impressions, and reflections about the fieldwork or the interview—primarily personal commentary rather than strict reporting.
4. Analysis and interpretation notes—attempts by the researcher to integrate the observational and interview data into some coherent analysis scheme to the first attempts at finding order or patterns in the data.