Cross-Cultural Comparison with eHRAF World Cultures

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Exercise ID: 4.4
Class size: Any
Level: III
Source: Submitted by HRAF member

Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Multiple subjects specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable:
Region selection: open (student choice)
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from entire collection
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? No
Assignments for students to complete in groups? Yes
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No

Bruce Freeman, Department of Anthropology, University of Calgary, Canada

Part 1: Syllabus

Course Summary

In this course, students will be introduced to formal approaches (methods) used to describe and analyze the social world (social research). We shall first consider the research act as a scientific endeavor and then proceed to explore common research methods used by social/cultural anthropologists. In doing so, an introduction is provided to both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including the use of descriptive statistics and computer research technologies. As research method students are “apprentice researchers,” an emphasis will be placed on ethical considerations of the research process.

Learning Objectives

Students in this course will have an opportunity to develop applied skills in doing and evaluating anthropological research by completing individual and joint research projects. In doing so, students will be required to demonstrate specific competencies in (a) identifying research problems, (b) selecting appropriate research methods, (c) developing research strategies, (d) initiating projects, (e) collecting and analyzing data, and (f) reporting research findings in written form.

Attendance, Participation and Deadlines

Students are expected to attend classes, arrive at class on time, and respect assignment deadlines. Research skills are acquired incrementally, so missing a class means missing key lessons. The research industry is deadline driven, so being professional means being on time. Living up to these expectations will help you make the best use of your time, help create an effective learning environment, and contribute to personal success in your program of study.

The midterm test may be deferred for valid reasons such as illness and domestic affliction. Assignments may be submitted in hard copy or as an e-mail attachment (MS Word) and are due at the beginning of class (i.e., 09:00) on the assigned date. Recognizing that research often involves working around the schedules of others, students will be granted a 48-hour extension for a maximum of two individual or group assignments, provided the request for an extension is received at least 24 hours before the deadline.

Evaluation Methods

A variety of instruments will be used to measure student performance. To ensure students develop a sufficient background in the foundations of the research process, a midterm test is scheduled. Given the applied nature of the research process, over one-half of the final grade is derived from individual and group assignments. Finally, individual journals provide students with an opportunity to reflect critically in written form on lectures and activities.

  • Tentative Class & Reading Schedule

  • Midterm Test (worth 25% of final grade)–Test Study Questions

  • Individual Assignments (4, each worth 10%)

  • Group Assignments (2, each worth 10%)

  • Course Journal (worth 15%)

Students must complete all of the above course work to receive a passing grade. There is no final examination for this class.

As the delivery of the course is adjusted to meet the needs of the students, the test date and assignment deadlines will be established over the course of the term. A minimum of two weeks advance notice will be provided to students of upcoming due dates. The last assignment and course journal is due on the last day of class, April 15, 2002.

Grading Scale

A 90 and over A = Excellent – superior performance, showing comprehensive understanding of subject matter.
A- 85% – 89% 
B+ 80% – 84%
B 76% – 79% B = Good – clearly above average performance with knowledge of subject matter generally complete.
B- 72% – 75%
C+ 68% – 71% 
C 64% – 67% C = Satisfactory – basic understanding of the subject matter.
C- 60% – 63%
D+ 56% – 59%
D 50% – 55% D = Minimal pass – marginal performance; generally insufficient preparation for subsequent courses in the same subject.
F <50% F = Fail – unsatisfactory performance or failure to meet course requirements.

Required Textbooks

Neuman, W. Lawrence. 2000. Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. 4th edition. (with workbook)

Spradley, James P. & David W. McCurdy. 1972. The cultural experience: Ethnography in complex society.

Part 2: Tentative Class & Reading Schedule


14    Science & Research (Chapter 1)
16    Dimensions of Research (Chapter 2)
18    Theory & Research (Chapter 3)
21    Meanings of Methodology (Chapter 4)
25    Ethics & Politics of Social Research (Chapter 5)
28    Research Design (Chapter 6)


1     Measurement (Chapter 7)
4     Sampling (Chapter 8)
8     Experimental Research (Chapter 9)
11   Assignment 1 (Individual) Due
13   Survey Research (Chapter 10)
Reading Week
25   Review
27   Exam


1     Course Journal Comments & Survey Research (Continued);
Assignment 2 (Individual) Due
4     Survey Instrument Critique
6     Test & Assignment 2 Review
8     Non-Reactive Research & Secondary Analysis (Chapter 11)
Assignment 3 (Group) Distributed
11   Human Relations Area Files: eHRAF Collection of Ethnography
NOTE: Class held in TRI-LAB, Basement of Social Science Bldg, SS-018
13   Historical-Comparative Research (Chapter 14)
15   Analysis of Quantitative Data (Chapter 13)
Assignment 4 (Individual) Distributed
18   Analysis of Quantitative Data (Continued)
20   Field Research (Chapter 12)
22   Field Research (Continued)
Assignment 3 (Group) Due
25   Analysis of Qualitative Data (Chapter 15)
Assignment 5 (Group) Assigned
27  Analysis of Qualitative Data (Continued)
Good Friday


1   Cultural Experience & Scenes (Spradley & McCurdy, Chapters 1 & 2)
Assignment 4 (Individual) Due
Assignment 6 (Individual) Distributed)
3   Cultural Informants & Meaning (Spradley & McCurdy, Chapters 3 & 4)
5    Cultural Description (Spradley & McCurdy, Chapter 5)
8    Class time for Assignment 6
Assignment 5 (Group) Due
10  Class time for Assignment 6
12  Class time for Assignment 6
15  LAST CLASS: Assignment 6 & Course Journal due

Part 3: Test Study Questions

Midterm Test Date: Wednesday, February 27, 2002

One of the two following questions will be on your test. Allocate approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes to write a response.

1. While working out in the Fitness & Leisure Center, you notice a male wearing a t-shirt with the following text: “U of C Engineering” on the front and “Taking the Social out of Social Science” on the back. You do not observe female students wearing this t-shirt nor do you notice the statement associated with other University faculties. We discuss this in class and some students suggest that engineering students hold the social sciences in low regard. Other students, pointing to the demographics of our class, argue that males hold this feeling generally. Our class is asked to investigate further, granted ethical clearance, and provided a list of all U of C students (specifying gender, faculty, telephone numbers) and an unlimited budget.

a. Considering the elements of a “good” hypothesis, develop two statements describing the possible associations among these variables (be sure to clearly specify the variables).

b. State what indicators you will use to measure these variables (you are not asked to develop a questionnaire). For each, state the level of measurement.

c. We will test your hypotheses by conducting telephone surveys. Outline and specify your reasons for choosing what you consider to be the most appropriate sampling method.

2. The Students’ Union is concerned that members of the campus community are being unfairly labeled as behaving irresponsibility after leaving the Black Lounge/Den. They suspect that the majority of late night vandalism is caused by people outside of the University community. As a social researcher, you recognize the value of using both qualitative and quantitative methods to triangulate your observations and would like to offer your professional services to the Students’ Union. You recognize that they will look unfavorably upon an expensive project but might sponsor a cultural anthropology major complete an honors project. Develop a preliminary research proposal to conduct this research. In this you should state:

a. The research problem.

b. How you would propose to research this problem, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

c. How you would address issues of validity associated with your research.

Part 4: Individual and Group Assignments

Assignment #1 (Individual)

Dimensions of Social Research and “Truth Claims”
Due: February 11, 2002

1. Locate two scholarly articles in social science journals. The articles must be by different authors and appear in different journals.

2. For each article, write a brief (150 – 250 words) summary of the dimensions of research employed by the researcher. Refer to Table 2.2 (Neuman, p. 37) for category headings.

3. For each article, select one “truth claim” attributed to another researcher. Review the source document. Does the stated truth claim accurately represent the work of the original researcher? Why or why not? Discuss your findings in a brief essay (150 – 250 words).

  • This exercise is a modified version of Exercise 2.3 in your Workbook (see below for Required Textbooks
  • Your submission must include a cover page and reference list.
  • Chapter 16 (Neuman) provides an excellent overview of the techniques of preparing a research report.
  • Write succinctly. Demonstrate your ability to apply course material rather than to simply reiterate the lectures and text.

Assignment #2 (Individual)

Pollster Statistics
Due: March 3, 2002

1. Visit the latest release section of the Ipsos Reid website and select one publicly released survey of your choice.

2. Using the media release and tables, summarize and critically evaluate the following components of the survey. Your discussion should demonstrate your understanding of these concepts.

a. Reported statistic (one only!)
b. Operationalization for that statistic
c. Research population
d. Sample size
e. Sampling procedure
f. Field interval (temporal period)
g. Confidence level
h. Confidence interval
i. Regional/Demographic characteristics

If one or more of these components are absent, comment on the significance of that fact in the context of the media release.

  • Your submission must be typed and include a cover page and reference list.
  • Write succinctly. Your discussion should be in the range of 500 – 750 words.

Assignment #3 (Group)

Cross-Cultural Comparison with the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography Database 50-Minute Lab Assignment
Due: March 22, 2002

1. In the computer lab, form groups of two or three students.

2. In your groups, use the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography database to browse through the OCM Subject Codes and select two that your group considers might be associated (i.e., “Alcoholic Beverages” (OCM 273) and “Offences against the Person” (OCM 683)).

3. Using the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography database each group member is to select one culture in a different HRAF region than other members. Ensure that both selected OCM Subject Codes appear in the text of at least one document for that culture.

4. Each group member is to review the subject-indexed ethnographic text and succinctly summarize it in written form (one page, 250 words):

a. The culture
b. The context in which the OCM subject codes appear in the document(s)
c. The association (if any) among the OCM subject codes

5. Working with your group members, develop a hypothesis using the two subject codes that could be investigated further cross-culturally using the eHRAF database. Explain the hypothesized relationship among the OCM subject codes. Include this one-page (250 word) response with the individual reports.

  • Your submission must be typed and include a cover page and reference list. Student names should appear only on the cover page.
  • All group members receive the same grade for this assignment.

Assignment #4 (Individual)

Unobtrusive Observations
Due: Aprill 1, 2002

1. Select a social context that you would like to observe. This area must be open to the general public. In choosing a site, consider what kind of people and interaction likely take place in this site.

2. Prior to conducting your observations (Step 3 below), you must obtain written approval (e-mail) from me to proceed. E-mail me and include a brief description of the proposed site and outline why you consider it interesting. I will respond by e-mail. Include a copy of my e-mail response (with your original message included) in your submission.

3. Spend one hour in your approved social setting. Observe the site, the people, and the social interaction. Make descriptive notes and diagrams. Note that this is an unobtrusive observation exercise. You are not to conduct interviews or conduct any form of research other than to observe what would be available to anyone in this public place.

4. Write a 500 word (typed) summary of the observation exercise. Describe the setting, the people who occupy the space, and the nature of their interaction. Note what themes, issues, or problems from your observations you would explore further if you were to conduct further research in this setting. Explain why you would like to do so. Comment on your own feelings, insights and reactions to the observation exercise. Do not develop a research proposal!

5. Include your field notes as appendix with your submission.

For this exercise, you are not to interview those people you observe. The purpose of this assignment is to assist you in developing your observation and analytical skills. What you observe is available to anyone who enters this public area.
  • This exercise is a modified version of Exercise 13.1 in your Workbook (see below for Required Textbooks).
  • Your submission must include a cover page.

Assignment #5 (2nd Group Assignment)

Ethnographic Comparison
Due: April 8, 2002

1. Form groups of two students.

2. Each group member is to select a mini-ethnography from Spradley & McCurdy (1972) and write a two-page (500 word) outline summarizing the methodological and analytical approach taken by the author.

3. Exchange and review drafts. Schedule a group meeting to compare and contrast the methodology employed by your respective student researchers. Adopting a balanced, critical approach, jointly develop a two-page (500-word) appraisal of the two mini-ethnographies. Consider what worked (and did not). Explain why (or why not). Is one mini-ethnography superior in describing a culture? Ground your assessment in Spradley & McCurdy’s approach to ethnographic research, with particular emphasis placed on domain analysis.

  • Your submission must be typed and include a cover page and reference list. Student names are to appear only on the cover page.
  • Both members receive the same grade for this assignment.

Assignment #6 (Individual)

Unobtrusive Observations: Focus and Analysis
Due: April 15, 2002

1. Review your notes from Assignment #4 (Unobtrusive Observations). Decide on an area of this cultural scene which you would like to focus on for further study. Your interest may be (1) personal, (2) theoretical, (3) strategic, or (4) organizational (domain analysis). Develop a strategy to focus your ethnographic observations. Summarize your research approach and rationale in a typed, one-page (250 word) document.

2. Spend one additional hour in your approved social setting from Assignment #4. Whereas your observations in the previous assignment were unstructured, here you will be focusing on specific aspects of the social setting. You may choose to focus on a specific or combination of dimensions as suggested by Spradley (1980). These are (1) space, (2) actor (3) activity, (4) object, (5) act, (6) event, (7) time, (8) goal, (9) feeling.

3. Make descriptive notes and diagrams. As with Assignment #4, this is an unobtrusive observation exercise. You are not to conduct interviews or conduct any form of research other than to observe what would be available to anyone in this public place.

4. After your observation period, review your notes from an analytical perspective. What generalizations can be made from your observations in terms of what you sought to discover in terms of cultural meaning?

5. Write a typed, two-page (500 word) analytical summary.

For this exercise, you are not to interview those people you observe. The purpose of this assignment is to assist you in developing your observation and analytical skills. What you observe is available to anyone who enters this public area.
  • Your submission is to include
    o a cover page
    o your field notes from Observation Exercise #2
    o assignment 4
    o your course journal

Required Textbooks

Neuman, W. Lawrence. 2000. Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. 4th edition. (with workbook)

Spradley, James P. & David W. McCurdy. 1972. The cultural experience: Ethnography in complex society.

Part 5: Course Journal

Due: April 15, 2002 (last day of class)
Worth: 10% of final grade

Keeping a course journal allows you to reflect critically on your involvement in the learning process and to document this analysis in written form.  A classroom is a “social situation” (Spradely & McCurdy, 1972) in which people (students and instructors) interact.   Social interaction in this (as in any) setting is dynamic, shaped both by the (a) values, experiences, interests, and knowledge individuals bring to the setting and (b) the social relations occurring in that context.   As a student, you are both an individual observer and a participant in a social group.

Obtain a small (9×7 inch) Hilroy (or other type) exercise book.  After each class, reflect on the classroom as a social context.  Make a dated entry and comment briefly on what you learned (or did not learn) and explain why this was important to you.  Do not repeat the daily outline or summarize your class notes.  Instead, use the course journal to document your reflexive thoughts about the class.  What did you bring to the classroom in terms of your opinions, knowledge, and experience?  How did this impact both (a) your learning and (b) the class?

Course journals are graded according to the degree of sophistication of your reflections on the classes.  Demonstrate that you are thinking about (and through) the material.  Students who attend classes regularly will have an obvious advantage over those who do not.

Notes made in your course journal should be written on the day of the class in your own handwriting.  They should be thoughtful and legible as opposed to lengthy and neat.  Your course journal will be reviewed once during the term and will be graded at the end of term.  It will be returned to you with your graded final project.  The contents will not be duplicated or shared with anyone other than the course instructor.