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This class examines a variety of issues in what we call "qualitative research methods." At it's simplist, qualitative research refers to research that uses words as data. The words come from pictures, interviews, fieldnotes that we write down, movies, or documents. Because we look for symbolic meaning in these words, we call this approach "Symbolic Interaction." (Symbols are simply things that stand for something else, such as the logo of a huskie symbolizing NIU). Qualitative research is often contrasted with quantitive research. Quantitative research refers to research transforms our data into numbers and then analyzes the numbers with a statistical procedure. Neither is better than the other. They are just different. Just as a hammer and saw are tools, and just as we use the best tool for the job at hand, research methods are just tools, and we use the one that's most appropriate for the questions we ask. We will focus primarily on a method (tool) called ethnography. WHAT IS A SYMBOL? A symbol can be anything. T-shirts symbolize something about who we are, our social group, and they often have a meaning (Cubs t-shirts usually say we're cubs fans). Language is a symble. How we speak often reveals our class, or social groups, or education. Body language conveys anger, sadness. Social space is a symbol. The list is endless. These are things we look for and at and study them as a data source. WHAT IS ETHNOGRAPHY? Ethnography is simply the study of a culture, social setting, or some other aspect of social life from the participants point of view. We want to understand how the participants make sense of their social world, how they give it meaning (or take meaning from it), and how they understand, create, and re-create what they do to make that culture work. WHAT DO WE MEAN BY CULTURE? Here's a quick definition of culture. A culture can be huge, such as culture in the U.S., and include things we all share. Or, a culture can be smaller, such as "culture of the rich" or "student culture in the U.S.", which refers to groups who have things in common because members see themselves as part of that group and share things in common. Or, they can be much smaller, such as "NIU culture," or even the "culture of this classroom," if one evolves. These smaller cultures are often called "sub-cultures." Most often, we study cultures around us. But, we can also study cultures from the past, such as "frontier culture in the 1880s.," online cultures, or even fictional cultures in movies or tv, such as Avatar, Star Trek, or Harry Potter. SO HOW DO WE DO ETHNOGRAPHY? That's what the course is about. We'll review scientific method to make sure we're doing science, and we'll review basic data gathering techniques and how to analyize them. We'll focus primarily on interviewing and observation, but will will review others as well. We can obtain ethnographic data from many sources: --Qualitative Interviews (Spradley's The Ethnographic Interview) --Observation (systmatic observation, casual observation, indexed observation) --Participant Observation ("hanging out;" full-immersion) --Movies, tv --Documents (historical documents, letters) Anyplace where people interact and provide something to look at (symbols), there is data. First, we refresh what we've learned from other courses about research logs. Second, we figure out what we want to look at over the term. Thir We do ethnography by finding some way to learn about the culture from the participants.
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