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Ways of Knowing: RESEARCH HELP

What is Ethnography?

Very simply, ethnography is the research approach used by cultural anthropologists when studying groups of people. It involves four key tenets:
  • Participant Observation. Ethnographers spend time with people as they go about their daily lives, learning how they live by actually doing what they do.
  • Natural Setting. Ethnography is conducted in the space where participants actually live, work and play, not in a separate research facility.
  • In Their Own Words. Ethnography research findings are delivered in the words of the participants, using their language and intonation.
  • Holism. People's actions and thoughts are influenced, directly or indirectly, by absolutely everything in their lives. Ethnographers stay open to all potential connections.

Ethnographers use many different research methods to gain insight into people, but always come back to these four core ideas.

Example of a Family Story

Encyclopedias for Background Research

One very easy way to start your research is to look in an encyclopedia that will provide an overview of basic background information on a topic. For example, Wikipedia is an excellent place to get background information. See the WIKIPEDIA guide for more.

eLibrary is an online database paid for by the Library, contains several encyclopedias and almanacs in its Reference section.

Vogue Archive is a resource is perfect for historical research because it has every issue completely available going back to the late 1800s, including ads, articles, etc. All searchable by key word and date range.

Websites of Interest for Background Research

Modern History and Timelines of Modern History: Wikipedia's articles with links to movements and historical events

Year by Year 1900-2001: This site describes historic events of the twentieth century by year and by decade. 

Books in the Otis College Library

There are books which you can browse which will be extremely helpful to you in learning about the cultural, social, and historical context of a particular time or period.

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