Ethnography is a social science research method that relies heavily on very personal experiences within a subject group or culture. Once the ethnographic research is complete; however, it is time to write up your findings. Although specific institutions may have their own guidelines, putting an ethnographic research paper together generally follows a standard format which encourages proper analysis and evaluation.
Define your guiding question. A good ethnographic research paper is guided by a central question and thesis statement. The aim is to write a concise and clear overview of the focus of your research, such as a description of the behavior or values of a particular social group. Clarify why this selected question is important and worthy of investigation.
Write up your methodology. This is a description of what you did during your research and how you did it. Include your ethnographic method, such as participant observations or interviews, and why you chose this method. Data should also be included when putting the paper together, such as how many times you visited a particular site and how many people you interviewed.
Report your findings. Use evidence taken directly from your research field notes to report your findings and to back up any assertions you make. Remember to attribute any quotes or ideas to the participants in your bibliography. Be selective with your material by only including relevant information to prevent your paper from becoming trivial or floating off-topic.
Interpret and evaluate the research. This consists of two parts. Analyze the raw data to make conclusions about your research. Look for any emerging patterns, trends, beliefs or processes. Then evaluate your research methods. Consider the strengths and weaknesses in your methodology and data collection, and any possible limitations of the study. If your findings do not answer your research question (as in step one), make some recommendations for further study.
Complete a final draft. Your paper should be double-spaced and word processed. Include a title page, references, bibliography and, if necessary, an appendix. Check for any errors in spelling or grammar and ensure you have written within the boundaries of the word count.
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- Always seek permission before using a participant's real name or place in your research paper. Or, you can use a pseudonym. In contrast to other types of academic papers, ethnography can be written in the first person.
- Ethnographic research is subjective, so it can be interpreted in numerous ways.
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