3- Proposing the Ethnographic Research Project

Chapter 3 provides basic information regarding the writing of a proposal for an ethnographic research project.

Ask the average college student where they usually conduct research and chances are the answers will be the internet and, maybe, the library.  Research understood this way is usually going to be secondary research, research that results in the gathering, summarizing and assessing of data that already exists.  It is most likely that most of the research you have conducted to date would be classified as secondary.  But, it’s also possible that you have some experience with primary research. Have you ever conducted an interview?  Have you ever designed and/or administered a survey? These sorts of actions are categorized as primary research, research that involves direct collection of data from real world interactions.

An ethnographic writing project is one that requires the melding of both primary and secondary research.  And, while secondary research is of definite importance, it is the primary research that serves to classify the kinds of projects discussed in this text as ethnographic in character.  In the case of an ethnographic research project, primary research will take place at a specific research site, one of your own choosing.  This chapter focuses on primary research by assisting you in choosing a research site, a first step in this process.  Chapter 4 focuses on the process of creating primary data—of converting observations made into fieldnotes.  Your fieldnotes will, in time, be analyzed and examined for patterns of meaning and behavior, patterns that may be the focus of a larger ethnographic essay. Chapter 5 outlines the process of collecting secondary resources in order to help you better understand and analyze your primary research data.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  In order to begin primary research, you must first select a research site.  But, even before you choose a research site, it’s a good idea for you to consider the primary object of focus for ethnographic research—the cultural text.