Bring together different sources of data

Linguistic ethnographers work with different types of data (for example, video- and audio-recordings of interactions, field notes, interview transcripts, policy documents, letters or photographs), which they bring together in order to understand the complexity of social events (Blommaert 2007). The emphasis is on 'making both academic and political generalisations about social life accountable to the kinds of small-scale everyday activity which we can observe, record and transcribe' (Rampton et al., Chapter 2, page 36). But what is the status of different kinds of data? What data can or should be treated as primary? And how might different sources of data be combined and analysed by those using linguistic ethnography?

The case studies in this collection demonstrate that there is no one fixed method or approach and no one 'correct' source of data. There are, however, productive tensions. In some linguistic ethnographic studies, the emphasis has been on collecting audio- and video-recordings of interaction for transcription and analysis, with field notes and other sources of data typically viewed as secondary (see Lefstein and Israeli, Chapter 10). In others, researchers maintain that field notes in particular are not simply useful for contextualising events but are as vital to linguistic ethnography as any other data. Creese, Takhi and Blackledge (Chapter 14) go further and argue that field notes should be subjected to the same rigorous linguistic analysis as interactional data.

Contributors to this collection stress the importance of bringing together different sources of data and demonstrate how and why they have focused on these within their analyses. For example, Madsen and Karrebffik (Chapter 13) combine fieldnotes, audio- and video-recordings, interviews and written texts in their study in order to make the case that (contrary to much research) hip-hop practices do not always challenge traditional educational models. Some also argue that there is a need for a diverse range of data to ensure that linguistic ethnographers are able to access areas of social life that may not be open to direct observation (Shaw and Russell, Chapter 7) or where 'ideal' data is simply not accessible (Rock, Chapter 8). Data sets that contributors have found valuable for linguistic ethnographic work include interviews (Copland), group meetings (Creese, Takhi and Blackledge), press releases (Van Hout), policy documents (Shaw and Russell), field notes and drawings (Collins), recorded interactions (Snell), letters (Rock), real time computer screen capture (Swinglehurst, Van Hout) and institutional forms (Tusting).

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