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The Ethnographic Interview
Transcript of The Ethnographic Interview
James P. Spradley Ethnography and Field Work Step 1: Locating an Informant Step 2: Interviewing an Informant Step 4: Asking Descriptive Questions Step 3: Making an Ethnographic Record Step 5: Analyzing Ethnographic Interviews Step 6: Making a Domain Analysis Developing a Productive Informant Relationship: Challenges
not everyone makes a good informant
unknown aspects of the informant’s culture
cultural practices can become unseen barriers
lack of interpersonal skills The Ethnographic Interview and the Friendly Conversation Or: How Do I Compile All This Research? Building Rapport to Elicit Information Goal: to discover organizational schemes (relationships of parts and whole) as the informant sees them. Effective domain analysis begins with semantic relationships between folk terms
Ex. "leg" connected with "walk" or "broken" Language and Field Work Ethnography and Culture Informants Part 2: The Developmental Research Sequence Part 1: Ethnographic Research Step 7: Asking Structural Questions Step 8: Making a Taxonomic Analysis Step 9: Asking Contrast Questions Step 10: Making a Componential Analysis Step 11: Discovering Cultural Themes Step 12: Writing an Ethnography Part 1: Ethnographic Research All ethnographic studies begin and end with a writing to translate all the findings
There are SIX levels involved in writing an ethnography. . . Level One: Universal Statements
Level Two: Cross Cultural Descriptive Statements
Level Three: General Statements about a Society or Cultural Group
Level Four: General Statements about a Specific Cultural Scene
Level Five: Specific Statements about a Cultural Domain
Level Six: Specific Incident Statements Steps for Writing an Ethnography
audience thesis outline
rough draft revise edit
intro/conclusion reread final draft Cultural theme (Opler): a “postulate or position” that controls activity in a society
Searching for cultural themes implies looking for relationships between parts and the whole immersion
making a cultural inventory
searching for similarities among dimensions of contrast
identifying organizing domains
making a schematic diagram
searching for universal cultural themes
writing a summary overview of the cultural scene comparing other cultural scenes Strategies for Conducting a Theme Analysis A choice in ethnography paths:
surface analysis or in-depth analysis
Taxonomy: divisions and subsets of folk language and terminology
"Parts of parts" Steps in Taxonomic Analysis Step One – Select a domain for taxonomic analysis.
Step Two – Identify the appropriate substitution frame for analysis.
Step Three – Search for subsets among the included terms.
Step Four - Search for larger, more inclusive domains that might include a subset of the one you are analyzing.
Step Five – Construct a tentative taxonomy
Step Six – Formulate Structural questions to verify taxonomic relationships and elicit new terms.
Step Seven – Conduct additional structural interviews
Step Eight – Construct a completed taxonomy.
Componential analysis: the systematic search for the attributes associated with cultural symbols (p. 174)
Focus on multiple relationships between folk terms and symbols
Folk terminology and attributes are related
Semantic relationships are related to folk terms
Conducted in two ways:
1. psychological reality of informant's world
2. structural reality of informant's world
Conducting a Componential Analysis 1.Select a contrast set for analysis.
2.Inventory all contrasts previously discovered.
3.Prepare a paradigm worksheet.
4.Identify dimensions of contrast which have binary values.
5.Combine closely related dimensions of contrast into ones that have multiple values.
6.Prepare contrast questions to elicit missing attributes and new dimensions of contrast.
7.Conduct an interview to elicit needed data.
8.Prepare a completed paradigm.
Major Discovery Principles: Finding Meaning of a Symbol
The Relational Principle
by discovering its relationship to other symbols
The Use Principle
by asking how it is used (not what it means)
The Similarity Principle
by finding out its similarity to other symbols
The Contrast Principle
by finding out how it is different from others
Restricted contrast: no similarity ("boy" and "bomb")
*Unrestricted contrast: both similarities and differences ("boy" and "girl"). Most informative. Discovering Contrasts to Find Meaning Seven Types of Contrast Questions 1.Contrast verification questions
2.Directed contrast questions
3.Dyadic contrast questions
4.Triadic contrast questions
5.Contrast set sorting questions
6.Twenty Questions game
Begin with descriptive questions
Exploration (repeat, restate, ask for uses)
Cooperation (as rapport increases)
Participation (informant teaches interviewer) Grand Tour Questions Typical Grand Tour Questions
"Describe a typical day..."
Specific Grand Tour Questions
"What did you do yesterday?"
Guided Grand Tour Questions
"Can you show me...?"
Task-Related Grand Tour Questions
"Could you draw...and explain...?" Other Questions Mini- Tour Questions
Native Language Questions
Getting More Specific So What Do I Ask? Document, Document, Document! Field Notes Artifacts Pictures and Tape Recordings Be careful with these; don't spoil your rapport! personal documents
anything created by informant
anything given by informant Diaries
Language Discoveries Who They Are...
Teachers of the Culture
Someone with Specialized Knowledge or Skill
Most Anyone Can Act as an Informant
Help the Interviewer find out what he/she needs to know
Who They Are NOT...
Friends, Relatives, or Roommates
Subjects (these have the goal of testing a hypothesis) Always Follow Ethical Principles when Interviewing! Language is... Essential in Ethnography
A tool for developing reality
Specific to a cultural scene What does the ethnographer do with language? Learn the language of the informant
Translation competence: translate the meaning from one culture to the next
Make ethnographic descriptions: Standard, monolingual, life histories, or ethnographic novels
What Is Ethnography? What is Culture? Ethnography for What? The most fundamental task of field work
The work of describing a culture
Learning from people, not studying people
Understanding culture from a native viewpoint
Starts with attitude of complete ignorance
Concern with MEANING
to the people we seek to understand
expressed directly (language)
expressed indirectly (word and action)
systems of meaning
Ethnography implies a theory of culture Way of life
Used to interpret experience
Controls social behavior
System of meaningful symbols
Largely encoded in linguistic form A "culture-studying culture" (p. 9)
For understanding the human species
making a cultural description
informing culture-bound theories
documenting alternative realities
discovering grounded theory
understanding complex societies
understanding human behavior
How do the people define their world?
In the service of humankind
Cultural descriptions can be used to oppress people or set them free!
What Interpersonal Skills? a. asking questions
b. listening skills
c. taking a passive role
d. expressing verbal interest in the other person
e. showing interest by eye contact and other nonverbal means.
What Makes a Good Informant? a. Thorough enculturation
b. Current involvement
c. An unfamiliar cultural scene
d. Adequate time
“Good informant”: helps the ethnographer learn about the culture AND learn interviewing skills Friendly Conversation Ethnographic Interview 1. Greetings
2. lack of explicit purpose
3. Avoiding repetition
4. Asking questions
5. Expressing interest
6. Expressing ignorance
7. Taking turns
10. Leave taking 1. Explicit Purpose--clearly state the direction and purpose of the interview
2. Ethnographic Explanations--what you are doing and why
3. Ethnographic questions
a. Descriptive questions
b. Structural questions
c. Contrast questions
Changes 1. Turn taking is less balanced
2. Repeating replaces the normal rule of avoiding repetition
3. Expressing interest and ignorance occur more often but only on the part of the ethnographer
4. In place of abbreviating, the ethnographer encourages expanding on what each person says.
Steps Selecting a problem (finding cultural meanings)
collecting cultural data
analyzing the data (searching for relationships among terms)
formulating ethnographic hypotheses (proposing relationships to be tested)
writing the ethnography (cultural description). Finding Cultural Meaning What Do We Mean by "Meaning"? Meaning is created by symbols
Two kinds of meaning: Denotation & Connotation
Find meaning systems (relationships among symbols)
Ask for its USE, not just its MEANING
Identifying Domains A domain is a symbolic category that includes other categories—the most important unit in ethnography All Domains Possess:
Cover term (e.g. "relationship")
Included terms (e.g. friendship, mother/daughter, colleague, romantic)
Semantic relationships between terms
Boundary: Where the domain ends (which terms fit or don't fit) Make a preliminary search for possible domains (look for "kinds" of something) strict inclusion (x is a kind of y)
spatial (x is [preposition] y)
cause-effect (x is a cause of y)
rationale (x is a reason for doing y)
location for action (x is a place we do y)
function (x is what does y)
means-end (x is a way to do y)
sequence (x follows y)
attribution (x is a feature of y) 9 Universal Semantic Relationships Domain Analysis: 6 Basic Steps Choose a semantic relationship
Prepare a domain analysis worksheet
Select a sample of informant statements
Search for cover and included terms that fit the chosen relationship
Formulate structural questions to test each domain ("What are the different kinds of trouble?")
Make a list of all possible domains
Structural questions "enable the ethnographer to discover information about domains, the basic units in an informant's cultural knowledge" (p. 60). Principles for Asking Structural Questions Concurrent Principle: ask structural questions concurrently with descriptive questions
Explanation Principle: explain structural questions by the use of examples
Repetition Principle: repeat structural questions several times to elicit all included terms in a domain
Context Principle: provide informant with contextual information when asking structural questions
Cultural Framework Principle: phrase structural questions in cultural as well as personal terms Kinds of Structural Questions Verification Questions: ask for confirmation of a domain hypothesis
Cover Term Questions
Included Term Questions
Substitution Frame Questions: restate informant statements in question form
Card Sorting Structural Questions: writing terms on cards to help with discussion