Doheny-Farina and Odell: “Ethnographic Research on Writing: Assumptions and Methodology”

Doheny-Farina, Steven, and Lee Odell. “Ethnographic Research on Writing: Assumptions and Methodology.” Writing in nonacademic settings. Ed. Lee Odell & D. Goswami. New York: Guilford Press, 1985. 503-535. Print.

 


 

Purpose is to provide "methodological and philosophical underpinnings" of ethnographic research.

 

Theoretical Assumptions

 

Thick Description: "not only lists phenomena but also indicates the meaning(s) phenomena have within a particular context" (505)

 

Facts: recognize observation as cultural construct.

 

Naturalistic Context: has to be in a social setting, not removed from normal social environment.

 

Research Roles: not about "manipulating variables and trying to predict or influence behavior" (507). Participants are more experts tthan the ethnographers. Must be participant-observer.

 

Multiplicity: Use triangulation-- investigative (more than one researcher) and/or methodological (variety of methods) (509).

 

Methodology

 

Developing Research Questions: suggests very general research questions so as not to blind self to other possibilities. "Ethnographers are continually engaged in a process of discovery" (511).

 

Beginning Research

 

Choosing a Site: needs to allow some freedom of access. Can be visited at diff times of day for indef period of time. Early stages are difficult/intimidating. Establish research roles, minimize disruptions, develop "physical, temporal, and social maps of the setting" (512), develop relationships with key informants.

 

Establishing Research Roles: complete observer (no interaction; will still affect participants); participant-as-observer (avoid perception of alliance with groups/factions; some officialy become insiders); complete participant; observer-as-participant

 

Minimizing Disruptiveness: increase data collection activities over time.

 

Dealing with Observer Effect: follow above procedures, stay on site for an extended period of time.

 

Developing Maps of the Setting: orient self to social and temporal layouts of setting (516).

 

Developing Relationships with Key Informants: choice of informants based on four factors-- informants should engage in activities that appear to be related to investigator''s emerging research questions; should be able to provide range of perspectives; should be willing to be observed; should be capable of doing work while observed (517).

 

Carrying Out a Study

 

Remaining on Site for An Extended Period: depends on when during year, cycle, etc. observing; by observing over time can determine whether cyclical or not.

 

Varying Times for Observation: ''postlunch slump''

 

Varying Physical Perspectives: need to be present in diverse situations.

 

Observing and Speaking with a Variety of Participants: role of social interaction in composing process.

 

Collecting Data

 

reciprocal relationship between data and data-gathering procedures. (emergent)

 

Writing Field Notes: Field notes are observational (ON); theoretical (TN)--may be hypothesies, conjectures; methodological (TN)-- guidelines for future research activities

 

Conducting Interviews: goal not to confirm intuitions but find out what participant thinks. May use informal or formal. Stimulated recall (thoughts feelings reactions re: activities); discourse-based (notes alternatives used in past writing situations asks if would choose differently). Try to be nonjudgmental and nondirective.

 

Tape Recording Conversations: may effect participants, transcriptions expensive, but important.

 

Using Other Recording Technology: not necessarily objective; computer may be less intrusive.

 

Analyzing Data

 

goal is to develop model of the activity under study. Four stages: recording on-site analysis, developing categories, linking categories and developing a model, and integrating categories and chronology.

 

Recording On-Site Analysis: write TN during data collection.

 

Developing Categories: involved and imperfect process.

 

Linking Categories and Building a Model: model ="set of statements that describes and explains the rhetorical activities under study" (528).

 

Integrating Categories and Chronology: integrate the analytical with the narrative.

 

Uses and Limitations of Ethnographic Research

 

environment is constantly changing; ethnographers can''t predict (unlike medical)

 

Cites Heath''s Roadville/Trackton (1983)-- can identify recurrent behaviors of significance, used for other studies, explain other phenomena. Well done ethnography becomes part of the "intellectual life" of the scholarly community.