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.