Ethnography is the study and description of individual people, groups, and cultures. Ethnography is a type of qualitative research, meaning that the data gathered is in the form of words rather than numbers. Ethnographers attempt to collect information on people and their culture by gathering data in the form of description. This data is collected usually through observations, interviews, and examining artifacts that are part of the culture.
A researcher spends an entire month in an elementary school classroom in an effort to describe the culture of the classroom. The researcher may observe interactions between the teacher and students and between the students. The researcher may observe the lessons, as well as look at lesson plans and curriculum materials. The researcher may also interview the teachers and students.
An anthropologist spends a year in a small village in Africa in an attempt to describe the customs surrounding coming of age in the tribe. The anthropologist may observe coming of age rites, shadow adolescents who are coming of age, and interview tribal leaders.
A researcher spends three months on the streets of Los Angeles in an attempt to describe the social customs of a street gang. The researcher may shadow gang members, participate in gang "ceremonies," or customs, and interview gang members.
A researcher spends six months shadowing nurses in a neonatal intensive care unit in an effort to describe the culture of caring and coping that exists among the nurses. The researcher may shadow specific nurses, observe conversations between nurses and between nurses and doctors, nurses and patients, and nurses and patient families. The researcher may also interview nurses.
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