Teaching Ethnographic Methods: The State of the Art

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Ethnography, Research Methods, Qualitative Research, Teaching, Participant Observation, Fieldwork

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Ethnography is a core methodology in anthropology and other disciplines. Yet, there is currently no scholarly consensus on how to teach ethnographic methods—or even what methods belong in the ethnographic toolkit. We report on a systematic analysis of syllabi to gauge how ethnographic methods are taught in the United States. We analyze 107 methods syllabi from a nationally elicited sample of university faculty who teach ethnography. Systematic coding shows that ethics, research design, participant observation, interviewing, and analysis are central to ethnographic instruction. But many key components of ethical, quality ethnographic practice (like preparing an IRB application, reflexivity, positionality, taking field notes, accurate transcription, theme identification, and coding) are only taught rarely. We suggest that, without inclusion of such elements in its basic training, the fields that prioritize this methodology are at risk of inadvertently perpetuating uneven, erratic, and extractive fieldwork practices.

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Human Organization, v. 81, issue 4, p. 401-412