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Is ethnography a suitable meth

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Is ethnography a suitable meth

Is Ethnography a Suitable method for Research on Residential Satisfaction and Community Participation.

Ethnography within its wider field of research is described as the study of people's behaviour in terms of social contexts, with emphasis on interaction in everyday situations (Lindsay, 1997). It is further defined as research that constitutes the art and science of describing a group or culture (Fetterman, 1989). However, the specific definition that will be used throughout this work, is that of its role within qualitative research, which is summarised by Wainwright (1997) in his paper in The Qualitative Report, stating that ethnography can be distinguished as:

?...the attempt to obtain an in-depth understanding of the meanings and ?definitions of the situation? presented by informants, rather than the quantitative ?measurement? of their characteristics or behaviour? pp1.

The technique of ethnography is a holistic approach, in order to achieve a complete and comprehensive picture of a social group (Fetterman, 1989). There are two main techniques within ethnography, that is firstly, interviews, and secondly, observational methods of participant and non-participant forms (Goetz and LeCompte, 1984; Hammersley, 1990; Lindsay, 1997; Wainwright, 1997).

This discussion aims to analyse ethnography as a method of qualitative research and discuss its usefulness in a research question based around residential satisfaction and community participation. This will be achieved by analysing the main advantages and disadvantages of both methods of ethnography; that of interviews and observation techniques, with a holistic approach. Hereafter, assessment of the direct usefulness of the method relating explicitly to the two research variables of residential satisfaction and community participation. An overall critique summary and conclusion will follow this, on ethnography's context and suitability in such a study.

The first form of ethnographic research is interviews. These are where a respondent is asked a number of questions by the interviewer, and the interviewer records the answers. Interviews can be of the in depth conversational type, which are like guided conversations, where the interviewer converses with the respondent; or the second type, which is a semi-structured interview in a format similar to an oral questionnaire. There is also a immense range of varying techniques within both of these forms, an example being closed or open ended questions (Lindsay, 1997; Wainwright, 1997).

When comparing the advantages of interviews with the method of observational research, it is obvious that interviews are far cheaper and much faster in generating data, being able to be completed in an hour or so. Hence, respondent numbers are usually higher than a research based upon observational techniques (Haralambos, 1986).

Interviews also have the advantage of enabling the interviewer to examine quite complex issues, in a great depth of understanding as the interviewer is actually asking the respondent and receiving specific answers. Answers are available to compare with the interviewers personal observations, rather than just having simply observations (Hammersley, 1990; Hammersley, 1992).

The main disadvantages of interviews is the problem of ?interviewer bias? where the interviewer influences and directs the answer given by the respondent by his presence, or inadequate interviewing skills, in the fact that particular answers may be expected and this may transmit to the respondent and influence his or her reply (Haralambos, 1986; Lindsay, 1997).

Additionally, difficulties also arise from the effect that discussions are artificial situations, especially when comparing this method with observational techniques. Respondents frequently tell researchers what they think they want to hear, and also what might be more acceptable than what actually goes on or is true (Lindsay, 1997).

Another disadvantage of interviews as a technique of ethnography are that they tend to be a relatively expensive. However, this cost may be far lower than observational studies, especially those of more involved participant observation.

The second major technique in ethnography are observational methods of research originate from social researchers views that to fully understand and comprehend social activities and groups, it is necessary to join them, and see things from within. Researchers using this technique tend to place less on stricter scientific methods and statistics and more on their own personal observations. The two approaches are participant observation, and non-participant observation (Lindsay, 1997; Wainwright, 1997).

Participant observation is one aspect of observational ethnography. As the traditional method of field anthropology, participant observation is where the researcher has access to a community and spends time living within it, joining the group as a full member, participating in activities and is accepted by the group (Lindsay, 1997). The second form of observational qualitative research is non-participant observation. This is where the observer does not infiltrate the group itself, or join in with group activities, but watches their behaviour, by various means such as following the group around, and asking them questions. A technique frequently used within this research is film, photographic, audio or video methods for recording information (Lindsay, 1997).

The benefits that observational studies have over interviews in general, are that they are particularly useful in gaining in depth information, below the surface of peoples answers, to the motives behind them, and why people actually behave they way they do. Moreover, this type of research gives detailed information especially where the interviewer wants to grasp respondents experiences from a bottom-up approach, and it is a useful method in situations where interviews or questionnaires are deemed unsuitable, such as football matches (Lindsay, 1997).

Nevertheless, participant and non-participant observational qualitative ethnographic researches have there own specific benefits and downfalls. The advantages that participation observation has, is that as a group member, the observer is able to have deep contact with the group, as a confidante and hence enables a fuller understanding of motives behind group action or behaviour and a greater profundity of information generated, compared to surface answers that interviewing and non-participant observation generate (Fetterman, 1989; Wainwright, 1997).

In terms of the disadvantages and difficulties that participant observation holds to qualitative research, is the very question of the role and objectivity of the observer within the group itself as a member, and observer. As Lindsay (1997) summarises quite nicely:

?It has always posed the greatest problems of intersubjectivity? pp62.

with any bias making the whole observation quite dubious. As Wainwright (1997) highlights, another bias of the observer, the group itself may be influenced by the very presence of the observer, thus altering their normal set of behaviour.

Ethical questions arise more frequently with this form of research (Lindsay, 1997), and the community you are studying might put you yourself in ethical difficulties. An example of this would be deviant or criminal behaviour, although it must be pointed out that even within interviews, respondents who are unclear about researchers roles, do inform researcher of criminal activity and this equally draws into question the researchers own morality and respondent confidentiality issues (Lindsay, 1997).

Additionally, there is the difficulty of the lack of generated statistical information that is produced as a confirmation to the observers study. A high ...

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Keywords: is ethnography qualitative, is ethnography objective, is ethnography and anthropology the same, is ethnography a method or methodology, is ethnography a methodology

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