Featured eHRAF teaching exercise: Cross-Cultural Correlation Study


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Educators: Did you know that the HRAF website contains an open access collection of nearly 40 teaching exercises (sample syllabi) for classroom use that include questions and class assignments based on eHRAF World Cultures or eHRAF Archaeology?

The Teaching eHRAF section of our homepage has an index of all the teaching exercises categorized by field and level of difficulty. When browsing this page, you will find that a number of the exercises have been prepared in-house by experts at HRAF. Others have been written by educators from our member institutions who use the exercises as part of their curricula. All of the exercises make effective and thorough use of eHRAF databases and associated resources such as the OCM (subject) or OWC (culture) codes used in the databases, and even the new HRAF homepage. Supplementary materials, images or answer keys are also provided where relevant.

The best use of the Teaching eHRAF exercises is to supplement classroom assignments and themes that suit your course or curriculum. Topics range from gender, religion or kinship to hunter-gathering or nomadism. Many of the teaching exercises in the series include detailed, step-by-step database search examples, and most directly address the methodological process behind cross-cultural researching, making them ideal for building critical skills among students. An excellent example of these is Exercise 1.16 – Cross-Cultural Correlation Study contributed by Vicki Bentley-Condit, Department of Anthropology, Grinnell College, Iowa.

A Level III resource aimed at developing independent research skills, this teaching exercise provides the framework for students to produce a 5-7 page eHRAF-themed research paper with limited guidance. It instructs the student on how to turn a preliminary hunch into a testable hypothesis and then prove whether or not their hypotheses are supported by data from the eHRAF World Cultures database. Given the research-oriented focus, this exercise can be adapted to work in anthropology, archaeology or other social science fields.

The strong emphasis on the collection and interpretation of ethnographic data for cross-cultural comparison makes this a good example for advanced research that can be tailored in whole or part as a practical exercise for classroom use.

eHRAF for Research

Unlike with more static online resources, hypothesis testing and cultural comparison within eHRAF require user intervention at various stages in the search and result filtering process. Making the most of eHRAF’s searching, indexing and coding systems for effective research requires an ongoing modification and refinement of search terms. Full-text ethnographic results allow the researcher to find connections between different cultures and places. This unique process will often lead the researcher in directions that they did not anticipate and is an important skill to impart in anthropology classrooms.

Indeed, the global collection of ethnographic materials in eHRAF World Cultures and archaeological sources in eHRAF Archaeology offer plenty starting points whether browsing by subject, culture and tradition, or searching with specific keyword terms. No two eHRAF searches need ever be the same due to the rich resources that appeal to nearly every anthropological field.

Learn more

To view a full list of teaching exercises, go to Teaching eHRAF. You can also browse for relevant exercise using the Subject Index.

Access to the teaching exercises is freely available to everyone. Searching the eHRAF databases is by subscription only. Check to see if your institution is already a member with database access (or contact your librarian), or find out more about a free trial here.

If you find these teaching exercises useful, please let us know. We also encourage educators to collaborate with us and contribute any eHRAF-themed teaching materials that they have to Teaching eHRAF. If you would like to contribute, email us at hraf@yale.edu. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.