The Ethnographic Research
Abstract This chapter of the book deals with the nature of ethnographic research and the research tools it employs—ethnographic interviews and participant observation. The chapter focuses on the role of ethnographic researchers, the dimensions that ethnographers must consider in order to get a comprehensive collection of information, and the analysis of findings.
Ethnographic research is a genre of qualitative research, which developed out of anthropological methodology. It investigates societies and cultures by examining human, interpersonal, social and cultural aspects in all their complexity. Ethnography is a research approach that refers both to the process and method according to which research is carried out and its outcomes. This is an approach that combines methodology used for research and data that emerges from it, the analysis of this data and researcher’s interpretation thereof (Sabar-Ben Yehoshua 2016; Shlasky and Alpert 2007). A researcher’s interpretation will include a summary of the research process, identifying the subjects, carrying out observations and interviews, document analysis, describing research findings and new discoveries learned from the research (Alpert 2016). Ethnography as a product, is predominantly text that presents research to the public and appears as written academic work in the form of a research report, article, monograph, book and the like (Shlasky and Alpert 2007).
Ethnography is used for research in many areas such as medicine, psychology, sociology, information systems, education and more, and it focuses on the natural surroundings of cultural systems such as community, society, groups, systems, organizations and such. This genre enables study of behaviours, norms, beliefs, customs, values, applied human patterns and human phenomena as these are expressed in practice. It enables understanding of life forms and systems of thought and behaviour in different cultures, organizations, and social systems, both cultural and political as reflected in daily conversations and local events. Ethnography provides rich and wide-ranging insights into actual reality, ways of life, social interactions and peoples’ perceptions as expressed by the actions and the surroundings in which they live. It enables seeing entire phenomena, understanding
© The Author(s) 2017
L. Shagrir, Journey to Ethnographic Research, SpringerBriefs in Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-47112-9_2
their complexity and significance, and making generalizations on human behaviour in general.
Ethnographic research requires intense and long term investigation in order to collect data and record sequences of events, conversations between people and their relationships. To do this, researchers must be present at events and situations and spend a lot of time in the studied environment in order to learn about what takes place, what is said when and in what circumstances. Once data collection processes are over, an ethnographer undertakes the important work of interpreting and ascribing meaning to all actions, words and events that were examined and data that was collected (Harvey and Myers 1995; Heyl 2001; Karnieli 2008; Mutzafi-Haller 2012; Reeves et al. 2008; Shlasky and Alpert 2007; Van Maanen 2011).
Ethnography in education is a tradition that keeps evolving.