Data Collection Methods (Designing and Conducting Ethographic Research – LeCompte and Schensul 1999)

LeCompte, Margaret D. and Jean Schensul.  1999. Designing and Conducting Ethnographic Research. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

(1) Observation

Purpose: Record situations as they occur and the meanings of the events as they occur to study participants

Targets: Activities, events, sequences, settings, structures, group and individual behaviors, conversations and interactions

Procedures: Written or taped fieldnotes, informal interviews and conversations, videos, photographs, maps, observational checklists

Data Content: Physical settings, actions, activities, interaction patterns, meanings, beliefs, and emotions


(2) Ethnographic Interviews

Purpose: Elicit in-depth information on specific topics, personal histories, cultural beliefs and knowledge, descriptions of practices

Target: Representation of individuals, key informants and/or topic experts

Procedures: Unstructured/semistructured/elicitation techniques by interview

Content: Answers to open-ended questions, responses to elicitations


(3) Content Analysis (of secondary text or visual data)

Purpose: Themes or content of meaning in a written/visual media

Target: Documents, artifacts, art products, transcripts, photos, videos

Procedures: Repeated observation, development of analytic categories, coding, enumeration

Content: Coded or sorted media


(4) Focus Group Interviews

Purpose: Obtain  information about norms, behaviors, attitudes, cultural domains, innovations, instrument content

Target: Groups familiar with or belonging to group under study

Procedures: Interviewer-led group discussion, group elicitation techniques

Content: Transcripts of conversations guided by the interviewer’s questions and text-coded


(5) Elicitation Methods

Purpose: Obtain data on the ways people categorize and organize understanding of cultural domains using stimuli

Target: Individuals, small and representative samples from target groups

Procedures: Interviewer requests individual responses to elicitation tools (pictures, maps, lists, material items)

Content: Lists, sorted or categorized items, transcripts of discussions


(6) Audiovisual Methods

Purpose: Obtain accurate audio-visual records of events, interviews, and program activities

Target: Key informants, gruops with expertise in research topic, small groups, special events

Procedures: Targeted recorded events, or components of events selected in advance

Content: Coded transcrips of audio and visual elements


(7) Network Research

Purpose: Obtain data on patterns of relationships and exchanges among individuals, groups, and other social units; understand the diffusion of behavior and information through a network

Target: Representative, targeted, snowball, or systematic network sample of the target population

Procedures: Interviews with index (startpoint) individuals and members of their networks

Content: Quantified behavioral, attitudinal, or knowledge-based variables for individuals and theri contacts, pairs and larger groups; qualitative description of networks in space and time




What do  I need to know?

Why do I need to know this?

What kind of data will answer this question?

Where can I find this data?

Whom do I contact for access?

What is the time line to obtain this data?


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