Karen O’Reilly is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University, and Professorial Research Fellow at Goldsmith’s, University of London. She has taught ethnographic and qualitative methods for over 20 years, including the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Collection and Analysis, the Swiss Summer School in Social Science Methods, in Lugano; at the Universities of Aberdeen, Essex, Loughborough and Oxford; and at universities in Germany, Norway and Hong Kong.
Her experience also includes being a Member of the Advisory Board of the NCRM biannual Research Methods Festival 2011-2012; and a member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2012 – 2016. Karen is a highly experienced ethnographer and qualitative researcher whose many publications include two widely cited books on ethnography: Ethnographic Methods (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2012) and Key Concepts in Ethnography (Sage, 2009). She has also been instrumental in the design and evaluation of Masters level Research Methods courses and programmes in a number of universities. Karen provides short courses for the Social Research Association on a regular basis, as well as bespoke training in qualitative research methods.
Course Content Ethnography is an increasingly popular style of research, employed in both long-term and short-term studies in creative ways across the social sciences. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the technical, practical and philosophical issues that arise when employing traditional and innovative ethnographic methods. Ethnographers typically immerse themselves in a setting for a period of time, listen, ask questions; and supplement observation with the analysis of interview data, documents, and visual and digital data.
Such an intrusion into the social setting presents a challenge to the ‘received view of science’ but ethnographic methods have proven, over time, to provide valid, valuable and rich contextual data with which to understand complex social issues. This course addresses practical and theoretical issues through the following topics: the history of participant observation and contemporary applications; hypotheses and induction; accessing the field; writing fieldnotes; making sense of observational data and telling credible stories; multi-sited, virtual, visual and sensory ethnography; reflexivity and the emotions in fieldwork.
The course is practical, encouraging participants to relate topics to their own research interests and to carry out and begin to analyse micro-observational studies.
Course objectives By the end of the course participants should: Be able to make close, theory-oriented observations through participation, observation, and conversation.
Be equipped to record and analyse the data produced through diverse methods. Take a critical and creative approach to ethnographic methods and understand how they can be combined with other methods of data collection for a range of social, political and policy research areas.
Be in a position to defend the validity and reliability of ethnographic interpretations.
Course Prerequisites The course is introductory but intensive, rapidly taking participants from a beginner to an advanced level. Some prior familiarity with qualitative methods and a background (basic) knowledge of philosophy of social science is required. Participants should be aware that the practical decisions to be made when conducting ethnographic research are necessarily theoretically-informed and will vary with each practitioner’s orientation. The course aims to equip participants with the knowledge required to make those decisions for themselves in practice.
Representative Background Reading O’Reilly, K. 2009. Key Concepts in Ethnography, London: Sage
O’Reilly, K. 2012. Ethnographic Methods, 2nd. Ed. London: Routledge (or 1st ed.) This book will be provided by the summer school as part of the course material.
Scheper-Hughes, N., 2000. Ire in Ireland. Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 117-140.
Silverwood, V. (2014) Ethnographic Observation and In-Depth Interviews: Legitimate Violence in Ice Hockey, Sage Research Methods Cases. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013509768
Background knowledge required None
Sessions The Summer School Course is very practical, teaching the theory and practice of ethnographic research through lectures, practical sessions, and discussion. The ethnographic approaches we cover can be applied in all fields that depend on social research, such as education, social work, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, communications and political science. The course encourages you to intellectually relate what is taught to your own research interests. There is a demand on participants in the course to participate: these methods are learned by trial and error and through experience rather than through chalk and talk methods. Many of the themes I wish to raise and discuss will, I hope, be raised naturally as you attempt to do your own field research and interviews. The below is a guide. Actual delivery and exercises will be responsive to the needs of the participants. Readings will be made available as virtual copies.
Day 1.What is ethnography? Plan and Design Traditional and contemporary approaches to ethnography and the history of the methods. Planning and designing and the role of the literature review. Iterative-inductive research. Serendipity. Recommended Reading Malinowski, B. 1922 Argonauts of the Western Pacific: an account of native enterprise and adventure in the archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea, New York: Dutton (Introduction, available at https://archive.org/stream/argonautsofthewe032976mbp/argonautsofthewe032976mbp_djvu.txt
Guided exercises In small groups think of a setting or a group in which you can do fieldwork during the week. You will need regular access. You must be ethical. Try to think in terms of a group of people rather than just the setting. Start to ask some questions about the group, for example, ‘how is the Summer School image constructed for users; what mechanisms are used by participants to help them settle into the Summer School routine; do some cope better than others’. Think about how you might achieve participation, observation and interviewing within this group or setting. Consider whether you would be able to take photographs or film, or perhaps use other arts-based or virtual methods. Begin to gain access. Do some basic unobtrusive observations and make some field notes.
Day 2. Doing Participant Observation. Selecting sites and participants. Doing Participant Observation. Making field notes.
Recommended Reading Silverwood, V. (2014) Ethnographic Observation and In-Depth Interviews: Legitimate Violence in Ice Hockey, Sage Research Methods Cases. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/978144627305013509768 Guided exercises Design some more clear research questions to guide your study of this group. Have you negotiated access yet? How would you adopt a role within the group and develop trust and rapport? Do some participant observation and make field notes. Begin to make arrangements for interviews and conversations, and improved participation (if possible).
Day 3.Interviews in ethnography. Individual and group interviews; conversations; opportunistic interviewing; the ethnographic interview and the art of listening.
Recommended Reading Williksen, S. (2009). Moods behind the silences. Ethnography, 10(1), 115–127.
Guided exercises List relevant substantive or theoretical themes associated with your setting, now that you have got to know it better. How would you design a fuller study of this area? How would you conduct a literature review, and collect other background information, how would you learn about the history of the setting, the politics or dynamics of the group. Do more participant observation. Take more active notes. Always record date, time, place, people and other details that might be relevant later – do not rely on your memory. Plan some interviews/conversations in your setting.
Day 4. Trust, rapport, and embodiment. Transcribing and translating. Designing topic guides.
Recommended Reading Brockmann, M. (2011) Problematising short-term participant observation and multi-method ethnographic studies, Ethnography and Education. 6(2): 229-243
Guided exercises Continue participant observation and note-taking whenever possible. Share field notes with your group. Draw a map of the setting and ask a respondent to do the same. Compare your results. Conduct at least one interview. Record in notebook or digitally if possible. Make extra notes about the interview. Describe the setting, who chose it and so on. Who sat where? Who was in control of the situation?
Day 5. New Directions in Ethnography Visual, virtual, mobile and sensual ethnography.
Recommended Reading Spencer, D. (2014), Sensing violence: An ethnography of mixed martial arts. Ethnography. 15(2): 232-254 Guided exercises Continue participant observation and note-taking whenever possible. If possible, take some photographs of your setting and the group under study. Consider other approaches (sensory, mobile, virtual). Do more interviews.
Day 6. New Directions in Ethnography Applied ethnography. Short-term ethnography. Dealing with limitations and opportunities. Recommended Reading Knoblauch, Hubert (2005). Focused Ethnography. Forum Qualitative Research. Vol 6(3). Article 44 (available online)
Guided exercises Have conducted at least two interviews (per group). Try to ensure your group has covered both opportunistic/conversational and more formal and semi-structured styles of interview. Continue participant observation and note-taking whenever possible. Work towards preparing a report for the last day.
Day 7. Analysis and Writing Ethnography. From writing down to writing up. The art of writing. Writing culture. Audiences and genres.
Recommended Readings (some examples of creative writing styles): •Besteman, C. (2104) Tales from the Field: Refuge fragments, fragmentary refuge. Ethnography, 15(4): 426-445 •Silva, M.L.e. (2015). Queer sex vignettes from a Brazilian favela: An ethnographic striptease. Ethnography, 16(2): 223-239 •Rambo, C., 2005. Impressions of Grandmother: An Autoethnographic Portrait. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 34(5), pp. 560-585. •Rambo Ronai, C. R. 1995 ‘Multiple Reflections of Child Sex Abuse. An argument for a layered account’, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 23(4): 395-425.
Guided exercises Continue with sustained participation, observation and note-taking. Collect information using other methods – pictures, quantitative data, posters, records – where relevant. Complete interviews. Begin to jot down themes that are developing out of your notes. Begin a short report of results and a reflection on your use of these methods.
In class: Give a one-minute presentation of a study or concept using any style you wish This is your opportunity to be creative and to test out postmodern styles. It should be fun and inspirational.
Day 8. Writing: practical issues including coding and memos. Grounded theory and ethnography. A mainly practical session
Recommended Reading Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I. and Shaw, L. L. 1995 Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Guided exercises Continue working on your group projects. In class: bring along field notes as we will be doing coding and analysis in class.
Day 9. Reflexivity and Ethics. How to do reflexivity. Thinking about our role and responsibility. Assessing the validity of ethnography and producing insights for design or policy.
Recommended Reading Scheper-Hughes, N., 2000. Ire in Ireland. Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 117-140.
Guided exercises: Prepare, using any supportive materials you wish, to give a short presentation on the results of your mini project. Focus more on methodological lessons or issues that the exercise raised than on substantive topics. Of course, fieldwork is necessarily long-term and you will not learn anything much in such a short space of time; it is more likely that you will have a lot more questions than you had in the first place and will have a clearer idea how you would proceed if you were beginning a long project. However, you also have the fresh view of an outsider. Have you learned anything that surprised you, that made you change the direction of your research? Can you learn (substantively as well as methodologically) from your mistakes?
Day 10. Group Presentations Your presentation should be creative as well as informative. It should focus mainly on methodological issues and lessons learned (take away messages). You should describe the topic you studied, how you developed the project and responded to methodological issues as they arose, and offer some brief findings. Presentations should last approx. 30 minutes per group. There will then be time for discussion.
Further Indicative References Adler, P.A. and Adler, P., 2007. The Demedicalization of Self-Injury. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 36(5), pp. 537-570.
Adler, P.A. and Adler, P., 2008. The Cyber Worlds of Self-Injurers: Deviant Communities, Relationships, and Selves. Symbolic Interaction, 31(1), pp. 33-56.
Bateson, G. and Mead, M. 1942 Balinese Character, Vol. II, New York: New York Academy of Science.
Charmaz, K., 2006. Constructing grounded theory. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
Clifford, J. 1986 ‘Introduction: Partial Truths’, in J. Clifford and G. Marcus (eds) Writing Culture: the poetics and politics of ethnography, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I. and Shaw, L. L. 1995 Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Fetterman, D., 2010. Ethnography: Step-by-Step. 3 edn. London: Sage.
Finlay, L. (2002) ‘Negotiating the Swamp: the Opportunity and Challenge of Reflexivity in Research Practice’, Qualitative Research 2(2): 209-30.
Geertz, C. 1973 The Interpretation of Cultures, New York: Fontana.
Pryce, K. (1979) Endless Pressure. A study of West-Indian Lifestyles in Bristol. Penguin.
Rivoal, I and Salazar, N. (2013) Contemporary ethnographic practice and the value of serendipity, Social Anthropology, Volume 21, Issue 2, pages 178–185
Rubin, H. J. and Rubin, I. S. 1995 Qualitative Interviewing. The Art of Hearing Data, London: Sage.
Scheper-Hughes, N., 2000. Ire in Ireland. Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 117-140.
Scheper-Hughes, N., 2004. Parts Unknown: Undercover Ethnography of the Organs-Trafficking Underworld. Ethnography, 5(1), pp. 29-73.
Small, M.L. (2009) ‘How many cases do I need?’ On science and the logic of case selection in field-based research. Ethnography, 10(1): 5-38
Spencer 2001 ‘Ethnography after Postmodernism’, in P. Atkinson, A. Coffey, S. Delamont, J. Lofland and L. Lofland (eds) Handbook of Ethnography, London: Sage.
Spencer, D. (2014), Sensing violence: An ethnography of mixed martial arts. Ethnography. 15(2): 232-254
Whyte 1993 Street Corner Society: the Social Structure of an Italian Slum, 4th Edition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Reading Pack to include: •Silverwood, V. (2014) Ethnographic Observation and In-Depth Interviews: Legitimate Violence in Ice Hockey, Sage Research Methods Cases. •Williksen, S. (2009). Moods behind the silences. Ethnography, 10(1), 115–127. •Brockmann, M. (2011) Problematising short-term participant observation and multi-method ethnographic studies, Ethnography and Education. 6(2): 229-243 •Spencer, D. (2014), Sensing violence: An ethnography of mixed martial arts. Ethnography. 15(2): 232-254 •Scheper-Hughes, N., 2000. Ire in Ireland. Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 117-140.