Ethnographic and Ethnological Research Project

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Overview
Exercise ID: 1.31
Class size: Any
Level(s): III
Source: Produced by HRAF


Learning Objectives

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

Classroom Guide

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

Ryan O. Begley, Human Relations Area Files

Anthropology 351 | Cultures of the World
Research Project (220 points total)

This is a three-part research project that involves choosing a cultural behavior and comparing it across three cultures: choosing two nonlocal cultures in which to read about the behavior and a third local culture in which to study it in-person.

Part A. Research Proposal: Due to Moodle by the start of class on October 22nd.

Part B. Research Report: Due to Moodle by the start of class on December 3rd.

Part C. Presentation: Due to Moodle by [TBA].

Part A. Research Proposal (70 points)

Due to Moodle by the start of class on October 22nd.

Part A involves performing background research on a cultural behavior as it exists in two nonlocal cultures and using what was learned to propose a plan for studying it in the field.

Research

Topic Selection [“What is my project going to be about?”]. Select a cultural behavior to be the topic of your research project. The behavior must fit the description of an “Outline of Cultural Materials” (OCM) subject code. A list of codes and descriptions can be found on eHRAF World Cultures (under “Browse Subjects”) and via: https://hraf.yale.edu/resources/reference/outline-of-cultural-materials/. Choose from the 180-890 OCM code range.

Research Question [“What is the most important/interesting question I have about this topic?”]. Develop a research question about the topic that you could answer with your research project. It is okay if the question changes based on what you read about the behavior (see below); there will be time to use what you learn to refine the question before submitting the proposal.

Text-Based Research. Read a scholarly or news article on your topic and use eHRAF World Cultures to read about specific examples of the behavior in two cultures.

a. Article. Find and read an article on the chosen topic: either a peer-reviewed journal article or a news or magazine article from a legitimate media or educational outlet. The idea is to choose an article that will allow you to learn (more) about the topic in general rather than as it exists in a given culture. It might provide a history of the topic, or make an argument about it, or offer an explanation of it. It must be at least 2500 words long.

b. HRAF Documents. Choose two nonlocal cultures from different continents in which to read about the behavior using eHRAF World Cultures. A simplified list of HRAF cultures with photographs is posted on Moodle (see “Cultures-in-eHRAF-7-23-19.pdf”) and a more detailed list can be found at https://hraf.yale.edu/products/ehraf-world-cultures/cultures-covered/. There should be at least 25 pages of reading per culture (could be from a longer single source or multiple sources with shorter descriptions). Note that each culture has a document called “Culture Summary: [Name of Culture]”; while useful to read, culture summaries are not primary sources and thus cannot be used for this part of the project. Be sure to take notes and paste useful information (along with citations) into a Word document.

Structure of the Submitted Proposal

Write-up a research proposal that contains the following items:

  1. Overview of Topic (5 points/at least 150 words). Introduce the chosen cultural behavior and discuss why you are interested in it.
  2. Research Question (5 points). State a research question about the behavior to be answered in the research report (Part B). Explain why it is an important or interesting question to pursue.
  3. Summary of Text-Based Research.
    1. a. Article (10 points/at least 150 words). Summarize the main point(s) of the article and explain how this information will be useful to your project.
    2. b. Culture Wikis (30 points/at least 250 words per culture). Write a Wikipedia section for each of the two chosen HRAF cultures that provides a description of the behavior in each. Cite the information with the HRAF source(s). Sections do not need to be posted to Wikipedia, but those who do (and do a good job with it) could earn up to 10 bonus points.
  4.  Plan for Fieldwork. Develop a plan for further exploring your research topic and question with ethnographic fieldwork. Choose a local culture/subculture/way of life in which to study the research topic and describe a plan for one interview with a member of that culture and one type of participant observation related to the topic.
    1. Local Culture Selection (5 points/at least 125 words). Describe the culture/subculture/way that you chose and explain why you chose it.
    2. Participant Observation Plan (5 points/at least 125 words). Describe at least one context in which you could do participant observation related to the research topic and explain how doing so would help answer the research question.
    3. Interview Plan (5 points/at least 125 words). Describe at least one member of the culture/subculture/way of life that you could interview about the research topic and explain how doing so would help answer the research question.
  5. References and Formatting (5 points). Include in-text citations and a reference list for all quoted and unquoted material referenced for this proposal. Format citations in the entire assignment according one of the following formal citation styles:

American Psychological Association (APA)

Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS)

Modern Language Association (MLA)

Example

Cultural Behavior/Topic: Tattoos

Research Question: Do people from different cultures get tattoos for the same reasons?
Article: Reading an article on the history and function of tattoos from Smithsonian Magazine.
HRAF Documents: Reading ethnographic descriptions of the reasons people get tattoos amongst the Maori (OZ04)[1] and the Central Thai (AO07)[2].
Local Culture Selection: The tattoo subculture in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania.
Interview Plan: A person with tattoos.
Participant Observation Plan: Making observations at a tattoo parlor while getting a tattoo.

Resources

eHRAF World Cultures: http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/ehrafe/

A “how-to” help guide is available in .pdf form on Moodle (see “HRAF-User-Guide-v1”) or online as a searchable index. You may also refer the video tutorials posted on the Human Relations Area Files YouTube channel.

Part B. Research Report (100 points)

Due to Moodle by the start of class on December 3rd.

Part B involves conducting ethnographic research on the behavior in local culture and writing a report that describes the fieldwork and compares the behavior across all three cultures.

Research

Conduct a participant observation and an interview related to the research topic as proposed in Part A.

Interview. Make a list of ten semi-structured interview questions and at least five follow-up questions or probes (each of these should be attached to a specific question). Base these questions on what you learned from the article and HRAF readings from Part A and any prior knowledge that you have about the topic. Design the interview to elicit responses that help develop an answer to your research question and be sure to follow the guidelines given in class. Audio record the interview using a voice recording app (e.g., Voice Memos on iOS) and obtain oral consent at the beginning of the interview. Submit the audio file(s) and a document with the interview questions to Moodle as separate files.

Participant Observation. Follow the plan from Part A and conduct the proposed participant observation. Remember that cultural anthropologists use this method both to discover the emic perspective and to develop the etic perspective—to discover “what it is like” and to explain “why it is like that”. This involves taking in your surroundings with each of your senses and engaging with both body and mind. But it also involves remaining objective in your role as a researcher and focusing on that which is applicable to answering your research question.

Research Report

After completing your fieldwork, write a report that describes the behavior in each culture and compares it across all three in order to answer the research question. Use information sourced from the readings and t data collected in the field to support this answer. There is not enough space to include everything that was learned during the research process. Rather, the goal is to distill all of the information into a few key themes most relevant to answering the research question, focusing on the most interesting and best-supported aspects of the research.

  1. Introduction (5 points/at least 150 words). Introduce the research topic to an imagined reader who is unfamiliar with it and the research question to be explored in the report. Offer some insight into what led to this topic and question.
  2. Background Information (10 points/at least 500 words). Provide information on the topic based on what you learned from the readings in Part A. Feel free to reuse relevant written material from Part A but be sure to focus on information applicable to the research question.
  3. Methods.
    1. 3a. Description of Culture (5 points/at least 150 words). Describe the culture and field site. Explain why these were chosen to answer the research question.
    2. 3b. Description of Interview (15 points/at least 350 words). Describe the interview and summarize the main takeaways (in paragraph form). Do not list the interview questions.
    3. 3c. Description of Participant Observation (15 points/at least 350 words). Describe what was done for the participant observation and summarize the main information learned.
  4. Discussion (40 points/at least 750 words). Write a detailed analysis that compares the behavior across all three cultures using at least two relevant concepts defined in the readings from Part A and/or covered in course lectures. Use specific examples from the HRAF readings and your fieldwork to build towards and illustrate an answer to your research question.
  5. Conclusion (5 points/at least 150 words). Conclude the report by answering the research question. Explain your conclusion and support it with the most compelling reasons mentioned in the Discussion section.
  6. References and Formatting (5 points). Include in-text citations and a reference list for all quoted and unquoted material referenced for this report. Format the entire assignment according the formal citation styles used in Part A.

Grading Rubric

Assessments Points Grading Criteria
Introduction 5 Clearly presented research topic and question.
Background Info. 10 Provided information on topic based on background article.

Discussed examples from both cultures based on HRAF texts.

Culture Description 5 Described the local culture and explained why it was chosen.
Interview Description 15 Clearly presented data and focused on research question.
P.O. Description 15 Clearly presented data and focused on research question
Discussion 40 Made a thoughtful comparison of the behavior across the cultures that aimed to answer the research question.

Included two concepts defined in readings or lectures.

Conclusion 5 Gave a reasonable answer to the research question.
References 5 Provided in-text citations and a references list.

Followed guidelines of one of the formal citation styles.

Length Percentage-based point deduction for not meeting length requirement (e.g., 250 of 500 words = 50% deduction).
Total 100

 

Part C. Presentation (50 points)

Due to Moodle by 11:59 PM on the night before the scheduled presentation date [TBA].

You are expected to give a 15-20-minute in-class PowerPoint Presentation based on Part B and should follow the same basic structure. The idea behind these presentations is to simulate the kind of talks scholars give before their peers at academic conferences. Submit the .ppt file to Moodle by the deadline and also bring a digital copy of it to class on a USB flash drive.

Structure of Presentation

  1. Introduction (2.5 points/1-2 minutes). Introduce the research topic to the class and the research question to be explored in the presentation.
  2. Background Information (7.5 points/2-3 minutes). Provide information on the topic based on what you learned from the readings.
  3. Methods and Results (7.5 points/4-5 minutes). This section should correspond to the Methods section of Part B.
  4. Discussion (20 points/5-6 minutes). This section should correspond to the Discussion section of Part B.
  5. Conclusion (2.5 points/1 minute). This section should correspond to Conclusion section of Part B.
  6. References and Formatting (2.5 points). Include in-text citations and a references list (at the end of the presentation) for all quoted and unquoted material referenced for this report. Format the presentation according the formal citation styles used in Part A and Part B.
  7. Q&A (2.5 points/2-3 minutes). Students in the audience should be prepared to ask questions and presenters should be prepared to answer them.
  8. Visuals (2.5 points). The presentation should contain photographs and other relevant visuals related to the topic and the three cultures.
  9. Exam Question (2.5 points). Write a multiple-choice question (four choices) based on your presentation and submit it on Moodle as a separate file. It might be included in Exam 3.
  10. Audio and/or Video Component [optional]. You may play a standalone audio and/or video clip during your presentation. Clips must not last more than ¼ of the total presentation time.

Grading Rubric

Assessments Points Grading Criteria
Introduction 2.5 Clearly presented research topic and question.
Background Information 7.5 Provided information on the topic based on the background article.

Discussed examples in both cultures based on the HRAF readings.

Methods 7.5 Described the local culture and explained why it was chosen.

Clearly presented data from interview and participant observation.

Focused on the research question.

Discussion 20 Made a thoughtful comparison of the behavior across the cultures that aimed to answer the research question.
Conclusion 2.5 Gave a reasonable answer to the research question.
Q&A 2.5 Requested questions at the end of presentation and provided reasonable answers.
Visuals 2.5 Presentation included photographs and other visuals appropriate to the topic.
Time Percentage-based point deduction for not meeting time requirement (e.g., 10 of 15 minutes = 33% deduction).
References 2.5 Gave citations where appropriate and a references list at the end.

Followed guidelines using one of the three formal citation styles.

Exam Question 2.5 Submitted a multiple-choice question based on presentation.
Total 50

Note: Students will be notified of any changes made to these criteria.

[1] e.g., pp. 296-325 in Buck, P. H. (1952). Coming of the Maori. Retrieved from https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=oz04-003

[2] e.g., pp. 83-94 in Terwiel, B. J. (1975). Monks and Magic: An Analysis of Religious Ceremonies in Central Thailand. Retrieved from https://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu/document?id=ao07-019