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Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches

Anthropology and the Social Sciences

THE CRAFT OF RESEARCH

This book is about research methods in anthropology—methods for designing research, methods for sampling, methods for collecting data, and methods for analyzing data. And in anthropology, this all has to be done twice—once for qualitative data and once for quantitative data.

No one is expert in all the methods for research. But by the time you get through this book, you’ll know about the range of methods used in anthropology and you’ll know which kinds of research problems are best addressed by which methods.

Research is a craft. I’m not talking analogy here. Research isn’t like a craft. It is a craft. If you know what people have to go through to become skilled carpenters or makers of clothes, you have some idea of what it takes to learn the skills for doing research. It takes practice, practice, and more practice.

Have you ever known a professional seamstress? My wife and I were doing fieldwork in Ixmiquilpan, a small town in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico, in 1962 when we met Florencia. She made dresses for little girls—Communion dresses, mostly. Mothers would bring their girls to Florencia’s house. Florencia would look at the girls and say ‘‘turn around .. . turn again . .. OK,’’ and that was that. The mother and daughter would leave, and Florencia would start making a dress. No pattern, no elaborate measurement. There would be one fitting to make some adjustments, and that was it.

We were amazed at Florencia’s ability to pick up a scissors and start cutting fabric without a pattern. Then, 2 years later, in 1964, we went to Greece and met Irini. She made dresses for women on the island of Kalymnos where I did my doctoral fieldwork. Women would bring Irini a catalog or a picture—from Sears or from some Paris fashion show— and Irini would make the dresses. Irini was more cautious than Florencia was. She made lots of measurements and took notes. But there were no patterns. She just looked at her clients, made the measurements, and started cutting fabric.

How do people learn that much? With lots of practice. And that’s the way it is with research. Don’t expect to do perfect research the first time out. In fact, don’t ever expect to do perfect research. Just expect that each time you do a research project, you will bring more and more experience to the effort and that your abilities to gather and analyze data and write up the results will get better and better.

 
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