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Research Methods in Anthropology

Sociology and anthropology research methods

❶Sampling bias generally means that the researcher doesn't have time to cover the entire group they are focusing on. For example, anthropologists would be interested in the culture and history of the Philippines , while sociologists would focus more on how the culture evolved to that point.

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Common research techniques found among both fields

Ethnography, or the immersive method of case study research, has to lead to the dispelling of rumor and a much deeper understanding of cultures through great effort. To begin, he clearly states his bias, being a male researcher and dealing primarily with the males of that society due to a highly gendered culture found there. He explains with great care that he is not searching for what men "do" but what they "say and do to be men. He had limitations both being an outsider and being male, only being able to see how one-half of these people portrayed their culture and even then through the lens of an outsider with his own biases, stated as clearly as possible within the paper.

This is the value of Ethnography, it allows researchers to further understand their research while remaining as unbiased as possible, highlighting weaknesses and need for further research from people of different genders and backgrounds.

An Ethnographic Analogy is a method for inferring the use or meaning of an ancient site or artifact based on observations and accounts of its use by living people. We can infer the use of an ancient tool by seeing how similar-looking tools are used in existing or recent societies.

By analogy we can hypothesize the same use for the old tool. In anthropology there are several types of fieldwork methods that are used while conducting research. Below we will go more into depth with several fieldwork methods that are used. The observational method is viewed as the least invasive method where the anthropologist minimally integrates themselves into the society they are studying and gathers data through verbal communication while attempting to remain non-intrusive of the culture.

This group of methods focuses on community interaction through language. It usually entails many open ended interviews with participants who are members of a group being studied. The researcher strives to learn as much as they can about the history of the community as well as the individuals within it in order to gain a full understanding of how their culture functions. Interviews can take place individually or with focus groups within the community based on age, status, gender, and other factors that contribute to differences within the community.

This type of research often strives to create an open dialogue, called a dialectic, in which information flows back and forth between researcher and subject.

Think of this situation as a conversation between two people about homework or an upcoming exam. This dialectic poses a challenge to the objectivity of socially produced data. The challenge is dealt with through reflection on the inter-subjective creation of meaning. This leads anthropologists to value reflexive abilities in their ethnographic writing. Because many anthropologists also hope to help the communities they work with to make change on their own terms within the confines of their own culture, in some cases objectivity is abandoned in favor of community based activism and social change.

Participant observation is a method for anthropological Fieldwork, used to collect data such that the anthropologist must create an intimate relationship between themselves and the culture studied. This method requires that an anthropologist participate in a social event that is part of a specific culture. This includes, but is not limited to, observing members of a culture by taking notes, eating the food that is provided, and participating in festivities.

The goal of participant observation is to be involved in the culture like a member of that society, all while observing and studying the culture. An example of participation observation would be if an anthropologist went to a Native American Tribal gathering and took notes on the energy and traditions they were being shown.

This anthropologist could participate in things like face painting or songs, and eat the food that the Natives eat. The information gathered in this observation is then recorded and reflected upon to gain further insight into the culture being studied. This observation method helps the anthropologist develop a deeper rapport with the people of the culture and can help others understand their culture further. This experience may result in the individuals opening up more to the anthropologist which allows them to understand more than an etic point of view of the culture.

In contrast to participant observation, non-participant observation is the anthropological method of collecting data by entering within a community but with limited interaction with the people within the culture. This anthropologist can be thought of as a fly on the wall. An etic approach that researchers often use to examine the details of how the subjects interact with one another and the environment around them. Detailed research such as body behavior e. An example of data collected through non-participant research would be the an estimation of how often women in a household wear high heels due to how worn out the carpet is.

The non-participant observation, although effective in providing some research, has limitations. One being, the observer affect. This is caused by the presence of the researcher having an influence over the participants' actions. The researcher may use systematic approaches of field notes, sampling and data to ensure and increase comfortable interactions. While using the non-participant observation method, the researcher's opinions may oppose that of the participant's on a certain issue.

The only solution to this problem and to have a fuller and unbiased take on the research is to use both non-participant and participant method. Cultural data assumes the form of directly observable material items, individual behaviors, performances, ideas and arrangements that exist only in people's heads.

From the perspective of the culture concept, anthropologists must first treat all these elements as symbols within a coherent system and must record observations with attention to the cultural context and the meanings assigned by the culture's practitioners. These demands are met through two major research techniques: After the initial orientation or entry period, which may take 3 months or longer, the researcher follows a more systematic program of formal interviews involving questions related to research hypotheses and specialized topics.

Several different methods of selecting informants are possible. Usually, a few key informants are selected for in-depth sessions, since the investigation of cultural patterns usually calls for lengthy and repeated open-ended interviews.

Selection of such a small number does not allow for strict assurance of a representative sample, so the anthropologist must be careful to choose subjects who are well informed and reliable. Ethnographic researchers will also train informants to systematically report cultural data and recognize significant cultural elements and interconnections as the interview sequences unfold. Key informant selection is known as judgment sampling and is particularly important for the kind of qualitative research that characterizes ethnography.

Anthropologists will very frequently also need to carry out quantitative research from which statistically validated inferences can be drawn.

Accordingly, they must construct an either larger random sample or a total population census for more narrowly focused interviewing according to a closed questionnaire design. Other important quantitative data might include direct measurement of such items as farm size, crop yield, daily caloric intake, or even blood pressure, depending on the anthropologist's research focus.

Aside from written observation and records, researchers will often provide ethnographic representations in other forms, such as collected artifacts, photographs, tape recordings, films, and videos.

Since the beginning of anthropological studies, the Comparative Method has been a way to allow a systematic comparison of information and data from multiple sources. It is a common approach for testing multiple hypotheses on subjects including co-evolution of cultures, the adaptation of cultural practices to the environment, and kinship terms in local languages from around the world. The comparative method, may seem like an outdated form of fieldwork information gathering, however this method is still quite prevalent in modern day anthropological research.

The use of this form of information gathering is intended to compare globalization, which uses a version of this method called multi-sited Ethnography by participant observation gathered from many different social settings. Another form of the comparative research method is shown through the Human Relations Area Files , which collects and organizes ethnographic texts from hundreds of societies all over the world.

These files cover topics ranging from types of kinship systems, to trading practices found in all of human culture. Anthropologists Ruth Mace--an anthropologist who specializes in evolutionary ecology--and Mark Pagel explore the comparative method of anthropological research in their article The Comparative Method in Anthropology.

They explain how in the past decade there have been many expansions in other branches of anthropology, including cultural diversity as a scientific endeavor. This is when the comparative method is used by those interested in cultural evolution and by those who study other human sciences.

However, "cultures cannot be treated as independent for purposes of investigating cross culture trends," therefore they must instead be studied in relation to one another: How two or more cultures grow together, or how they are researched together has the ability to outline the entire premise of the comparative method. Having been used for hundreds of years, this method is still one of the main forms of research for anthropologists all over the world.

Reflexivity is the awareness of the researcher of the effect they may be having on the research. It involves a constant awareness and assessment of the researcher's own contribution to and influence on the researcher's subjects and their findings. This principle was perhaps first thought of by William Thomas, as the "Thomas Theorem". Fieldwork in cultural anthropology is a reflexive experience.

Anthropologists must constantly be aware that the information they are gathering may be skewed by their ethical opinions, or political standings. Even an anthropologists' presence in that culture can affect the results they receive. Reflexive fieldwork must retain a respect for detailed, accurate information gathering while also paying precise attention to the ethical and political context of research, the background of the researchers, and the full cooperation of informants.

In our everyday lives reflexivity is used to better understand ourselves by comparing our culture to others. For example, when someone talks about their religion, you may immediately disagree with specific aspects of their religion because you have not grown up believing it as they have.

By being reflexive, one would be able to recognize their bias. Some anthropologists have taken this method to the extreme, Margaret Wilson, for example, wrote her book 'Dance Lest We all Fall Down' in a reflexive biographical manner; this accounted for her inability to fully integrate into Brazilian society.

Intersubjectivity is the realization that knowledge about other people emerges out of people's relationships with and perceptions of each other. The concept was first introduced by the principal founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl, and creates a "theoretical frame for thinking about the ways in which humans interpret, organize, and reproduce particular forms of social life and social cognition".

Intersubjectivity is defined by five key principles. Instead of a one-way transaction, intersubjectivity should be seen more as a type of mutual understanding. The second claim of Husserl's dissertation is that intersubjectivity is founded on the principle that we all share the same world, so that if two individuals were to "trade places", it would be present itself in the same way.

Through empathetic insight, human beings achieve Platzwechsel , which is a term used in chess to mean "place exchange". The third claim is that intersubjectivity creates a synthesis of worldviews through the usage of empathy. Although there may be different perspectives in the relationship presented, the collective world is assumed to be the same through the bilateral insight of shared knowledge.

In other words, intersubjectivity is not the result of communication, instead it is the condition required for it to occur. Finally, the fifth claim is that intersubjectivity is the principle by which anthropologists must view their work. In order to properly create an account of a group of people, one must develop relationships with others and deduce perceptions through experience. Because of the intrinsic qualities of this type of research ideally being conducted by people with close ties or membership of a community , it is usually very applicable to situations in the community.

The research is an analysis of the community's behavior by the community's members. Not only are they by necessity, motivated to work on the problem, but they will already have significant rapport with other community members which allows them to better address and analyze it. The dynamic attributes of the process allow constant reevaluation and change.

For instance, in the s American anthropologist Roy Rappaport analyzed the ecological significance of a ritual cycle of peace and warfare among the Tsembaga people of Papua New Guinea. Rappaport found that the Tsembaga and neighboring groups would maintain peace for periods of between 12 and 20 years. During these periods, the people would grow sweet potato gardens and raise pigs. The people would also guard areas of land they had previously gardened but which were now unused and believed to be occupied by ancestor spirits.

When the presence of too many pigs rooting up gardens and eating sweet potato crops became a nuisance, the Tsembaga would feast on the pigs, perform a ritual to remove spirit ancestors from old gardens, and then lift the ban on warfare.

The lifting of the ban allowed the Tsembaga to capture abandoned lands from other groups. This regulation of warfare coincided with the amount of time it took for abandoned gardens to regain their fertility, and so made good ecological sense.

The practice of phonology, for example, involves precisely documenting the sound properties of spoken words. Many linguistic anthropologists also practice orthography, the technique of creating written versions of spoken languages.

In addition, most study the properties of grammar in languages, looking for the rules that guide how people communicate their thoughts through strings of words. Anthropologists have studied such topics as how different languages assign gender to words, shape the ways in which people perceive the natural and supernatural worlds, and create or reinforce divisions of rank and status within societies.

For instance, many of the peoples native to North America conceive of time as a continual cycle of renewal, a concept quite different from the European belief that time only moves forward in a progression from the past to the future. English and other European languages cannot as easily express such an idea, nor can most Europeans or Americans of European descent truly understand it. Archaeologists use specialized research methods and tools for the careful excavation and recording of the buried remains of past cultures.

Remote sensing involves the use of airplane photography and radar systems to find buried sites of past human cultures. Rigorous methods of excavation allow archaeologists to map the precise locations of remains for later analysis.

Seriation, the practice of determining relative age relationships among different types of artifacts based on their shapes and styles, helps archaeologists learn how past cultures changed and evolved.

Archaeologists also use a variety of dating methods involving chemical and other types of scientific analysis to reveal the age of buried objects up to millions of years old. In addition, some archaeologists have training in cultural anthropology, and they may use cultural research to help them interpret what they find buried in the ground.

For example, people in many small-scale societies continued to make tools of stone into the 20th century, and some still know how.

By watching these people make their tools, archaeologists have learned how to interpret patterns of chipped pieces of stone buried in the ground. Physical anthropologists often rely on rigorous medical scientific methods for at least part of their research, in addition to more general observational methods. All physical anthropologists have detailed knowledge of human skeletal anatomy. These researchers typically analyze the chemical or cellular composition of bones and teeth, patterns of wear or injury, and placement in or on the ground.

Such analyses can reveal information about the sex, age, work habits, and diet of a person who died long ago. Some physical anthropologists specialize in epidemiology, the study of disease and health among large groups of people. In addition to studying diseases themselves, physical anthropologists focus on cultural causes and preventions of disease. They may study such specific medical topics as nutrition and gastrointestinal function, human reproduction, or the effects of drugs on brain and body function.

For instance, physical anthropologists working in San Francisco, California, studied how the beliefs and practices of homosexual and bisexual men factored into the spread of the AIDS acquired immunodeficiency syndrome virus in the s. This information helped in the design of effective health education programs to reduce the spread of the disease.

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Ethnography is a core modern research method used in Anthropology as well as in other modern social sciences. Ethnography is the case study of one culture, subculture, or micro-culture made a the researcher immersing themself in said culture.

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He is co-editor of Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology, Second Edition, author of Social Research Methods, and founder and editor of the journal Field Methods.

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'Research Methods in Anthropology' is the standard textbook for methods courses in anthropology. This fourth edition contains all the useful methodological advice of previous editions and more: additional material on text analysis, an expanded section on sampling in field settings, and dozens of /5. Research Methods in Anthropology is the standard textbook for methods classes in anthropology. Written in Russ BernardOs unmistakable conversational style, his guide has launched tens of thousands of students into the fieldwork enterprise with a combination of rigorous methodology, wry humor, and commonsense advice. The author has thoroughly updated this new fourth edition/5(5).

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This is the year-long core course for the MA Anthropological Research Methods. Enrolment is limited to students on that MA programme. For a methods option course, see Ethnographic Research Methods. This course provides a post-graduate level introduction to the various methods of enquiry and. - H. Russell Bernard, Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches In support of the many and varied methods employed by anthropologists of all stripes, AAA provides links to articles or videos of research methods commonly used by anthropologists.