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Uses participant observation as a tool for gathering information and is a form of what is termed qualitative research in contrast to quantitative research which focuses on measurement and formal analysis. As participant observer, the researcher becomes actively immersed in the chosen setting in order to gain understanding through experiencing aspects of the life of an individual or group. Ethnographic research is the foundation of anthropology, which has been principally concerned with the descriptive recording and analysis of the group life of traditional, generally pre-literate, societies. Until the 1950's, anthropologists would often resist close involvement in community life and maintain quite formal and narrow relations with the host society in order to do better ‘objective science’, but today, anthropologists generally seek active involvement as a source of understanding. Ethnographic research is also central to symbolic interactionism, phenomenological sociology, labeling theory and ethnomethodology, where the goal is to comprehend the subjective perspectives of individuals. Ethnographic research is linked to a reaction to positivism which distrusts subjectivity in research and attempts to treat human ‘subjects’ as an object that can be scientifically investigated. See: EPISTEMOLOGY / POSITIVISM / QUALITATIVE RESEARCH / .

Last updated 2002--0-9-

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Athabaca University ICAAP

© Robert Drislane, Ph.D. and Gary Parkinson, Ph.D.
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