ETHNOGRAPHY: STEP BY STEP

Fetterman, D.M. (2010)

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications

Comments from Readers

 

I'm surprised I've studied Anthropology this long without this book. It is simple, linear and effective. David Fetterman takes the beginner through all the necessary thought processes and equipment required to do research. More importantly, he includes a whole section of resource material in one book. Everything from Web sites with research data to List Serves that have anthropological material to associations, their phone numbers, email addresses and Web sites. He includes a detailed listing of software and freeware that can help a reseacher, complete with a brief explanation of the use and value.


Moreover, he noted that when the first edition came out in 1989, there was no World Wide Web, so that by the time this book was published in 1998, it was undoubtedly already out of date. Subsequently, he has set up a Web page to accompany the text with a more up-to-date listing of software, freeware, List Serves, technological advances and WebSites.


This book is a great tool!


Fetterman gives user friendly definitions of many of the most daunting terms in the field of anthropology.
Emic = insider's or native's perspective. Etic = external or social science perspective. Proxemitics = study of how the socially defined physical distance between people varies in differing social circumstances. Kinesics = body language study. Operationalism = defining one's terms and methods of measurement. Terms like micro and macro level studies, open and closed probes, structural and attribute questions are not only defined, but are put into practice with short examples.


Fetterman briefly describes research methods such as projection techniques and triangulation -- gives examples of their use, advantages and drawbacks.


He details specific uses for specific programs, like MicNotePad that turns the researchers portable computer into a tape recorder and aids in transcribing the material.


This book is an essential tool for any student, undergrad, graduate or post graduate in anthropology or social sciences in general.

Fetterman explains in sequential fashion how to do an ethnographic study. He describes ethnography as "the art and science of describing a group or culture" (p. 11) The first step in the process is for the researcher to enter the field of study with an open mind. In attempting to describe a setting, there is no one acceptable standard. Multiple interpretations of reality exist. A study is one person's view of a given group, at a particular time. Although this limitation is a given, an ethnographer should seek to be holistic in presenting a study's findings (p. 21). An ethnographic study would include both structure and function. Structure is the social structure or configuration of the group. Function is the social relations among group members. Like systems theory, relationships are significant components of an ethnographic study. Symbolic communication is significant in revealing what is important to the people being studied. As an observer, a researcher using this approach is a human instrument. There are some biases, but the more experience one develops, the better one can develop his or her skills of observation. Fetterman goes on to talk about the difference between writing good field notes and writing the final report. In all the book clearly shows how to go about the process of doing an ethnographic study.