By Margaret D. LeCompte University of Colorado Boulder, Jean J. Schensul Institute for Community Research
This primary quantity of the Ethnographer's Toolkit presents a realistic, basic advent to ethnography and ethnographic perform to the scholar and amateur fieldworker
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Extra resources for Designing & conducting ethnographic research : an introduction
Research has shown that exercise and diet in childhood can influence the onset of diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults. For this reason, a team of ethnographers and epidemiologists responded by conducting a study of activities and energy outputs in Puerto Rican children. This pilot study took place in Hartford and New Haven and resulted in a set of assessment tools that can be used to measure children’s activity outputs. The researchers were surprised to find out that boys were expending four times more energy than were girls within comparable time periods.
It can also be used once a program is in place to document and understand better what is happening in that program and to provide information on program staff and participants that can complement other, quantitative data collected on the program. Ethnography can be used throughout the life of a program to provide formative feedback; it also can complement a survey or explain quantitative results or outcomes, especially when those outcomes are unanticipated. Finally, ethnography is very useful in the identification of new trends (for example, changes in drug use patterns or changes in the attitudes of parents toward the use of new curriculum materials in schools), new ideas for action, and potential problems in the implementation of new policies such as those involving social welfare payments, educational testing programs, services to immigrants, or social service reform on communities.
However, while conducting an ethnography of drug users, Philippe Bourgois observed them to do these things only some of the time. When they were in a rush and did not have a clean needle handy, they would reach for a used needle (Bourgois 1998). Furthermore, not every member of a group of drug users used the bleach kit. Thus, in this instance, observations from the field qualify or even disconfirm what people report in survey responses. Data such as these can only be obtained through ethnographic field research and are of central importance in designing culturally framed interventions that actually work.