Etymologically ethnography means the description (grafé) of the lifestyle of a certain group of people who are accustomed to living together (ethnos). It is a branch of study belonging to Anthropology,so that an Ethnographic Research, is responsible for studying cultures in a descriptive way.
What does Ethnography study?
Ethnography as a tool in Qualitative Research, has as a unit of analysis the ethnos and in its studies can be based on a nation, linguistic group, community or region.
Likewise, this type of research can be based on any human being. It constitutes a unit whose relations are regulated by certain customs or certain rights and obligations that are reciprocal.
In this way, an Ethnographic Study can focus on an educational institution or a company. It can also be considered a factory, a hospital, a prison, a social club, a workers’ guild or a classroom.
On the other hand, alcoholics, criminals, drug addicts, homosexuals, meretrices, beggars, among others, can also be studied through ethnographic research.
This is because these last subjects are part of social groups although they are not associated or integrated. This in view of the fact that they share and are guided by styles and ways of life that make them similar. In this way they can be taken as the basis for these anthropological studies.
Characteristics of ethnographic research
- In the strict sense, this type of research consists of the production of studies that are analytical-descriptive. Also, they are based on the beliefs, customs, religious and social practices, behaviors and knowledge of a culture of specific primitive peoples or tribes.
- In the broad sense, some qualitative research that is social, educational or psychological, can also be considered ethnographic. This as long as they avoid manipulating the variables and focus their attention on the natural environment, incorporating as co-researchers some subjects of their studies.
- They are based on the foundations and theoretical positions of Cultural and Social Anthropology. This is in view of the fact that his approach is based on the integrity, precision and sensitivity of ethnographic relationships.
- It is based on an ecological psychology because the researcher must observe the subjects in their natural ecological environment. In such a way that it studies the phenomena in situ.
- Theories must emerge from empirical data that are related to the structures of events. It contains the authentic and spontaneous way in which these and people’s lives manifest themselves.
- In this type of study, an initial problem or hypothesis should not be explicitly generated, because this can cause problems by limiting and restricting the observation process.
In this way, it is propitiated that the capture of the realities that may be important and significant to interpret the social or personal structures, are omitted in the research. Also, in the Ethnographic Method no justification is needed, but this is based on the results of the history emanated by the researcher and its endorsement is the provision of services by this subject.
What is the Ethnographic approach based on?
This approach is based on the conviction that the traditions, values, roles and norms of the environment in which one lives. Little by little they are internalized and as a consequence, they generate regularities that allow to explain in an adequate way both individual and group behavior, being essential in an ethnographic research.
Thus, the members who make up a cultural, ethnic or situational group tend to share a logical or reasoning structure. Although it is generally not explicit, it is manifested in different aspects of their lives.
What is the objective of an Ethnographic Study?
The primary objective of Ethnographic Studies is to be able to create a realistic image that is faithful to the group being studied.
However, Ethnographic Research: a methodological proposal for the approach of this type of inquiry is more ambitious. Its purpose is that through the comparison of various particular studies by different authors, it can facilitate the understanding of sectors or population groups that have similar characteristics.
What should an Ethnographic Researcher do when preparing a work of this type?
- Focus on description and understanding as a central point of your research. This must have as its purpose the search for an approach to the true nature of human realities.
- Deepen your research, having a mind as open as possible. It must allow impressions to emerge and their relationships with the environment in which the study is being developed.
- Compare your impressions and relationships with different media through the contrast of data sources. These are elaborated through the use of a categorization and triangulation of different theoretical perspectives.They will help you make a valid interpretation of the phenomena you are describing.
- They must have knowledge of cinematography, photogrammetry, sound recordings, mapping and linguistic principles. In this way, they will be able to share the life and different customs of the group they study.
- Know the language of the social group they are going to approach. In this way, while participating in the different activities that the research subjects carry out in their lives, they will be able to communicate with them, managing to collect and interpret the information.
How can an investigative process of an ethnographic nature be elaborated?
Ethnography as a tool in Qualitative Research, to address the phenomena of human behavior, and even animal behavior, seeks the means to observe and study these phenomena. He uses them as if it were the first time, avoiding using the slightest kind of influence of previous theoretical categories.
Therefore, rather than being guided by conceptions and theories related to their study, the researcher must allow interpretations to arise from the real events and manifestations he perceives.
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