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Home arrow Environment arrow Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches
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PRESENTING RESULTS IN MATRICES AND TABLES

An important part of all analysis, qualitative and quantitative, is the production of visual displays. Laying out your data in table or matrix form and drawing your theories out in the form of a flow chart or map helps you understand what you have and helps you communicate your ideas to others (Miles and Huberman 1994). Learning to build and use qualitative data matrices and flow charts requires practice, but you can get started by studying examples published in research journals.

Donna Birdwell-Pheasant (1984), for example, wanted to understand how differences in interpersonal relations change over time in the village of Chunox, Belize. She questioned 216 people about their relations with members of their families over the years, and simulated a longitudinal study with data from a cross-sectional sample. She checked the retrospective data with other information gathered by questionnaires, direct observations, and semistructured interviews. Table 15.1 shows the analytic framework that emerged from Birdwell-Pheasant’s work.

Birdwell-Pheasant identified five kinds of relations: absent, attenuated, coordinate, subordinate, and superordinate. These represent the rows of the matrix in table 15.1. The columns in the matrix are the four major types of family relations: ascending generation (parents, aunts, uncles, etc.), siblings, spouse, and descending generation (children, nephews, and nieces, etc.).

Birdwell-Pheasant then went through her data and ‘‘examined all the available data on Juana Fulana and decided whether, in 1971, she had a coordinate or subordinate relationTable 15.1 Birdwell-Pheasant's Matrix of Criteria for Assigning Values to Major Relationships between People in Her Study

Major Types of Relationships

Values of relationships

Ascending

generation

Siblings

Spouse

Descending

generation

Absent

parents deceased, migrated permanently, or estranged

only child; siblings deceased, migrated permanently, or estranged

single or widowed; spouse migrated or permanently estranged

no mature offspring; all offspring deceased, or migrated permanently, or estranged

Attenuated

does not live with parents or participate in work group with parent; does visit and/or exchange food

does not live with siblings or participate in work groups with them; does visit and/or exchange food

separation, but without final termination of union; e.g., temporary migration

offspring do not live with parents or participate in work group with them; do visit and/or exchange food

Coordinate

participates in work group with parents, sharing decisionmaking authority

participates in work group with siblings under parents' authority; or works with siblings only, sharing decision making

married; in charge of own sex-specific domain with minimal interference from partner

participates in a work group with offspring, sharing decision-making authority

Subordinate

participates in work group with parent; parent makes decisions

participates in work group of siblings; other sibling(s) make decisions

individual's normal control within sex- specific domain is interfered with by spouse

dependent, elderly parent, unable to work

Superordinate

makes decisions for dependent, elderly parent who is unable to work

participates in work group with siblings; makes decisions for group

interferes with spouse's normal controls within sex- specific domain

heads work group that includes one or more mature offspring; makes decisions for group

SOURCE: D. Birdwell-Pheasant, ''Personal Power Careers and the Development of Domestic Structure in a Small Community'' American Ethnologist 11(4), 1985. Reproduced by permission of the American Anthropological Association. Not for further reproduction.

ship with her mother (e.g., did she have her own kitchen? her own wash house?).’’ (In Latin America, Juan Fulano and Juana Fulana are the male and female equivalents of “so- and-so”—as in ‘‘Is so-and-so married?’’)

Birdwell-Pheasant repeated the process, for each of her 216 informants, for each of the four relations in table 15.1, and for each of the years 1965, 1971, 1973, 1975, and 1977. This required 216(4)(5) = 4,320 decisions. Birdwell-Pheasant didn’t have data on all possible informant-by-year-by-relation combinations, but by the time she was through, she had a database of 742 ‘‘power readings’’ of family relations over time and was able to make some very strong statements about patterns of domestic structure over time in Chunox. This is an excellent example of the use of qualitative data to develop a theory and the conversion of qualitative data to a set of numbers for testing that theory.

Stephen Fjellman and Hugh Gladwin (1985) studied the family histories of Haitian migrants to the United States. Fjellman and Gladwin found an elegant way to present a lot of information about those histories in a simple chart. Table 15.2 shows one chart for a family of four people in 1982.

Table 15.2 Family History of Haitian Migrants to Miami

Year

Jeanne

Anna

(mother)

Lucie

(sister)

Charles

(brother)

Marc

(adopted

son)

Helen

(aunt)

Hughes & Valerie (cousins)

Number in household

1968

+

1

1971

+

+

+

+

4

1975

+

+

+

+

+

5

1976

+

+

-

-

+

3

1978

+

+

-

+

+

*

4

1979

+

+

-

+

+

+

*

5

1982

+

+

-

-

+

+

*

4

SOURCE: S. M. Fjellman and H. Gladwin, ''Haitian Family Patterns of Migration to South Florida'' Human Organization, Vol. 44, p. 307,1985. Reprinted with permission from the Society for Applied Anthropology.

This Haitian American family began in 1968 when Jeanne’s father sent her to Brooklyn, New York, to go to high school. The single plus sign for 1968 shows the founding of the family by Jeanne. Jeanne’s father died in 1971, and her mother, sister, and brother joined her in New York. Jeanne adopted Marc in 1975, and in 1976 she and her mother moved with Marc to Miami. Lucie and Charles remained together in New York. The two minus signs in the row for 1976 indicate that Jeanne’s sister and brother were no longer part of the household founded by Jeanne.

Two years later, in 1978, Lucie got married and Charles joined Jeanne’s household in Miami. Also in 1978, Jeanne began saving money and applying for visas to bring her cousins Hughes and Valerie to Miami. The asterisks show that these two people are in the process of joining the household. In 1979, Anna’s sister, Helen joined the family, and in 1982 Charles went back to New York to live again with Lucie.

There is a lot of information in this chart, but the detail is gone. We don’t know why Jeanne went to the United States in 1968; we don’t know why Charles left Jeanne’s household in 1976 or why he rejoined the group in 1978. Fjellman and Gladwin present seven of these family history charts in their article and they provide the historical detail in vignettes below each chart. Their purpose in reducing all the historical detail to a set of pluses and minuses, however, is to allow us to see the patterns of family growth, development, and decay.

 
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