Ethnography and Qualitative Interviewing I
Full course description
Qualitative Research is an overarching term for a diverse range of approaches and methods within different research disciplines. Qualitative researchers essentially “study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them” (Ritchie 2003: 3). Ethnography is one form of qualitative research and means literally “writing culture” (Hesse-Biber 2006: 230). Often called “participant observation”, ethnography is based on the simple idea, that in order to understand what people are up to, it is best to observe them by interacting with them up close and personal within their everyday lives. Ethnographers provide detailed accounts of the everyday practices of a culture, subculture, organisation or group by “hanging out”, observing and recording the ongoing social life by taking fieldnotes and/or providing “thick descriptions” (Hesse-Biber 2006: 230).
This is part one of an overall sequence of three skills trainings within which students design and implement their own study, analyze the data collected, and report on their research findings. In this first module students will learn about various research tools, such as participant observation and qualitative interviewing. Students will learn how to take fieldnotes and will be introduced to various forms of interviewing, such as the structured interview, the in-depth interview, focus groups and life history interviews. Taking fieldnotes and interviewing will be practiced in and outside of the classroom. Moreover, students will be guided through the process of crafting a feasible research question and the appropriate design for the study that they will pursue in the follow up modules of this course. The research questions will provide the basis for students’ investigations. What is to be investigated is entirely up to the student(s). However they will be provided with guidance in the formulation of their topics.
In this course, students will have to conduct at least one interview, thus you will need to have access to a tape recorder and/or video camera.
Note: This is a time and labor intensive skills training, especially once you have begun data collection in the second module of the course. Most of the work that you are required to accomplish will occurr outside of the class setting. Students are expected to work independently and should count on having to invest an extra two to four hours per week for interviewing, transcribing the interviews and working on the data analysis.
- To get a general impression of the qualitative research process and its fundamental differences to quantitative data analysis.
- To become familiar with the “art” of qualitative interviewing.
- To practice taking fieldnotes.
- To provide students with hands-on experience in crafting their own study and writing a feasible research proposal.
SKI1004 Research Methods I, SKI1005 Research Methods II and PRO1012 Research Project.
This course is for students with a background or sincere interest in sociology, anthropology and/or cultural studies.
- Hesse-Biber, S.N. (2011). The Practice of Qualitative Research. Sage Publication, Thousand Oaks, California, Second Edition.
- Burawoy, M. (2000). Global Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- Excerpts from several books on qualitative research that are available at the UCM reading room, for example, Silverman, D. (2005). Doing Qualitative Research, Rubin, H. (2005). Qualitative Interviewing: The Art of Hearing Data and Ritchie, J. (2003). Qualitative Research Practice.