Information About Ethnographic Research

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Observing as a Participant or Nonparticipant 

One decision you will have to make early is to whether to conduct your observations using participant observation, in which you act as a functioning member of the group or using nonparticipant observation, in which you observe as a non-member. In addition, as the professionals of the site Edu Birdie say, you will have to decide whether to conduct your observations overtly or covertly. 


Making Observations and Recording Data 

Data collection in this kind of research is done by observations and interviews. The essence of ethnography is to keep a careful record of what transpires within the group being observed. Always carry a notepad for brief jottings. Sometimes there is no alternative but to wait and record observation after you leave the setting. You should record the observations as soon as possible to minimize recall problems. You may also rely on equipment such as audio-recorders, video cameras, etc. If a purely qualitative approach is taken, data do not take the form of numbers but rather the form of narrative field notes from which themes and ideas are to be extracted. The first step in analyzing data is to do an initial reading of your field notes to identify any themes and hypotheses overlooked (Berg, 1998 ). The second step in analyzing data is to code any systematic patterns in your notes and consider doing an in-depth content analysis. 


Some Ethnographic studies in Education 

A study was conducted on “Understanding Behaviour disorders-their perception, acceptance, and treatment – A cross cultural comparison between India and the United States (Chakraborti-Ghosh, Sumita, 2008)”.The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions, identification, and treatment of students with behavior problems or disorders in India and the United States. These were conducted in classrooms both in India and the United States with teachers, students, and their parents/ guardians. Findings indicated that there were several factors, that is, family backgrounds, socio- economic environments, peer influence, cultural practices, societal expectations and cultural gaps between home and school which influenced teacher’s perception and understanding of behavior problems and disorder in the United States and India. 


The Policy brief “Ethnographic Knowledge for Early Childhood” (Adair, Jennifer Keys, 2010) details the contributions of current ethnographic research in the area of early childhood education. The brief s main purpose is to demonstrate how ethnography (as a methodology) helps us better understand the context of Early Childhood Programmes, the types of settings and resources those programs and the families have and the meaning, goals, and intentions of teachers, parents, children, and stakeholders. 


The article, Girl’s Education and Discursive spaces for Empowerment: Perspectives from Rural India (Shah, Payal P, 2011) examines a National girl’s education program and its role in addressing gender inequality in the Indian state of Gujarat. Employing an ethnographic and institutional approach, this article empirically investigates the education empowerment link by examining how institutional form impacts the social process that both define and characterize empowerment. In other words, it investigates how empowerment is manifested in one Kasthurba Gandhi Balika Vidyalaya. It presents an ethnographic study of a KBGV in Gujarat and identifies findings related to the KGBV program’s ability to create a unique “space” that fosters empowerment.

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