Saturday, February 28, 2009

Week 8, Ethnographies

What distinguishes ethnographies from case studies, how does triangulation impact data collection and analysis, and what must ethnographers do to ensure their work is both reliable and valid?
The ethnographies, unlike case studies, “examines entire environment, looking at subjects in context,” instead of only concentrating on the subjects. So, the “context” is the single most important factor in ethnographic research.
Triangulation gives validity and reliability to their work. Data collection has to be done from multiple perspecitives (using different methods) over a long period of time (repeatedly) to accurately identify and correlate the variables in the rich context and to offer a “thick description.” The collection of data through multiple methods gives validity to the work and the collection and analysis of those data by more than one observer-researcher makes it more reliable. The choice of the site and sample selection also affects validity (they have to be more representative to be generalizable).
Analysis of sample research studies
Purpose/Research Questions:
1. In a given non-academic setting, how are writers’ conceptions of rhetorical situation formulated over time and how are they affected by their perceptions of their social and organizational setting?
2. What are the social/organizational elements of writers’ composing processes and how do these elements influence those processes?
3. How do writing processes shape the organizational structure of an emerging organization?
So, the writer’s overall purpose of this research is to examine how contexts and writing processes in a nonacademic setting influence each other.
Subject/setting selection
Microware, Inc., an emerging organization. The writer makes a detailed study of the writing processes of Microware’s 1983 business plan.
Data Collection
Regular collection (three to five days a week) of data for eight months. He collected data from both formal and informal discussions. The data collection methods were 1) field notes, 2) tape-recorded meetings, 3) open-ended interviews, 4) discourse-based interviews
Data analysis
He established analytical categories and the properties of those categories and linked them to form the major theme and subtheme. (where is interrater reliability?)
The writer is careful enough not to make a sweeping generalization. His findings are:
a. Social and organizational contexts influence rhetorical contexts.
b. Rhetorical activity influences the company’s organizational structure.
However, the writer clearly says that this finding is provisional. He also suggests the necessity of further research.
Farina’s study is a good example of ethnographic research. His selection of setting helps him clearly demonstrate how writing also affects organizational structure. However, he is quite aware that his model may not totally apply to the more established organizations. His use of multiple methods of data collection over a long period of time gives validity and reliability to his work. One weakness, if it is so, is that he does not seem to involve other observers and analysts to create analytical categories to achieve reliability.
Research Questions:
How does the social roles of the (novice) writers affect their socialization process and their learning? How do writers handle transitions from one writing context to the other? The particular set of questions the writer raises is:
a. What differentiated simpler from more complex (and higher status) writing tasks?
b. What determined writers’ social roles in this particular community of practice?
c. What methods of socialization were used for writers new to this organization, and to what effect?
Subject/site selection
The site of study is Job Resources Center (JRC). The writer is studying writing in this non-profit ogramization located in the heart of an urban area. It offers trainings and English language classes to nonnative speakers. The writer concentrates on the learning processes of Pam and Ursula, newcomers to the o, organization from the academy (from universities ranked in the top 10).
Data Collection:
1. Weekly interviews with Pam and Ursula, audio-taping the conversation and photocopying all of the writing each did week to week, including drafts of texts and the subsequent revisions.
2. Observing client programs, talking to other staff members, and watching the activities going on like collaborative writing sessions, …
3. Interviewed the executive directors and more experienced writers both inside and outside JRC to get their perspectives on similar writing tasks.
Data Analysis
The writer studied her data iteratively to find out patterns and themes in relation to social roles of the writers within the discourse community of JRC. She operationalized the concept of discourse community in terms of its essential elements and used triangulation to assure validity.
The writer is aware that it is difficult to test reliability in her ethnographic study and the generalizability of her finding. However, towards the end of her essay, while talking about writing instruction, she seems to be making more generalized claim about the importance of collaboration and social context of writing.
Seventh graders’ science and social studies classroom at SMS, the only middle school in a big city. Most of the students were from economically disadvantaged families. The subjects were 30 students, teachers Jade, Audrie, and Sarah, and an adult community organizer. The writers also provides the racial and gender composition of the subject population. She defines her role as participant observer, though sometimes she would change her role.
Data collection
8 months period. The writer collected data from the whole class and the focus groups. (she chose two focus groups based on her rapport). Data collection methods were: a. field notes, b. audio- and video-tapings, c. transcriptions of them, d. participant interviews, e. the community surveys, f. speech drafts, g. other texts used for projects, h. students’ notes and journaling. The writer has triangulated her data very well though her selection of focus group may raise some problem.
Data Analysis
She develops two levels of analysis. The first level involves charting production, consumption, and distribution as articulation of the building project. The second level of analysis involves centripetal and centrifugal forces in writing.
The writer does not make a broader generalization and is aware of the limitations of her findings.
Problems: selecting those with whom she has good rapport.
Also, she fails to code the data well. Her categories like production, consumption, and distribution are not clear. So, methodologically flawed.
Carolyn Ellis
Her writing gave me a relief from numbers and charts of other readings of the week. We should not judge her writing from the framework used to analyze other research studies. Her autoethnography offers a different perspective to look at the events like September 11 other than the data oriented studies that hide or fail to account for the intensity of the suffering and pain undergone by the victims. The subject of her study fits well to the methodology of autoethnography.
Question: What about scholarship?
replication: methodologically, yes.

1 comment:

  1. Hem, I so agree with your last statement. Carloyn Ellis was a relief from the numbers, although I could definitely see the limitations in how she was trying to orient her study in relationship to the ethnographic genre.