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Qualitative Ethnographic Research Methods

ANTH/SOC 416  ANTH 516 - Spring 2018

Welcome to  Ethnographic Qualitative Research Method.   I am Rodney Frey, your instructor.  My office is in Phinney Hall, Rm. 116, with office hours on Mondays and Wednesdays 9:30 to 12:00, or by appointment.  You can contact me via:

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Our Textbooks for both undergraduate (ANTH 410) and graduate (ANTH 510) students are:

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Course Description:

This is a course in "story," and not "stats."  Specifically, it is a course in re-telling the stories of others, be they the stories of our contemporary neighbors or from our distant past, and doing so authentically and appropriately.  As such stories are likely from culturally distant and different others, we will seek to have you, the student, acquire an array of ethnographic qualitative research methodologies, i.e. a “toolkit.”  These ethnographic “tools” emanate from the humanities and the social sciences (be they in anthropology, education, history, public administration, or sociology), and from Indigenous communities themselves (those I have engaged in collaborative research).   

The over-arching objective of this course is for you to be able to recognize in your research the epistemological relationships between "what" you seek to know and re-tell (i.e., the content focus of your research) and "how" you go about that knowing and re-telling (i.e., your methodological means), and the ability for you to appropriately apply that relationship in the doing of ethnographic qualitative research.  Key question: How do we go about accessing and then re-telling someone else’s story, when that story could be predicated on an ontology and epistemology fundamentally distinct from that of our own, without making their story your own?

Acknowledging the epistemological and ethical implications of human-focused research, among the topics to be addressed in this course will be the responsibility of re-telling the stories of others, re-telling for what purpose, who is our host and our audience, ethics, research design, and techniques of gathering the stories and of interpreting those stories.  Consideration will also be given to the various modes of presenting research, from print and digital 3-D publication to teaching pedagogy in a classroom.  You will also explore and gain an appreciation of the ethical considerations and parameters of doing research with human populations and presenting that research to the public.

We will organize ourselves into appropriate research units, as a team (a collaborative mix anthropology and sociology students), and select potential topic and potential collaborative partner in our Moscow community.  Project topics can range from a life‑history of a local resident or relative, to the history of a local building, to an ethnography of a non-profit organization or a law enforcement agencies.   The collaborative partner could be a host community agency, organization, business, family member, and/or individual.  In dialogue and collaboration with your community partner, you will design and execute an applied, qualitatively‑based, research project that seeks to benefit the host partner, personage, organization or domain.  Emphasis will be placed on developing and applying research competencies in interviewing and participant‑observation data gathering, as well as archival and material culture research, along with coding, interpretative and writing skills.  The resulting research and any accompanying recommendations will be shared with the host community, agency, or individual, who will, in turn, critique that research.

This course will also provide you with a culminating senior learning experience, be it if majoring in anthropology or sociology, and a culminating learning University’s General Education experience.  Bringing to bear for all students (anthropology and sociology) will be the necessary knowledge and skills previously acquired and presented in this course to successfully design, conduct, document and present an applied, qualitative‑based, ethnographic (anthropologic or sociologic), or historical archaeological research project. 

The course thus attempts to integrate creative and analytical thinking, basic research design and data gathering, self-reflexive examination, interpretative and explanatory writing and video presentation, with the value of doing collaborative and applied, ethnographic and/or historical archaeological projects, all within ethically‑grounded context.

As a "Senior Experience," this course satisfies a University of Idaho undergraduate General Education requirement

Along with ISEM 101 and ISEM 301, the Senior Experience is part of the Integrated Studies component of the university’s General Education.  This curriculum seeks to enhance student competencies in integrative thinking, which are critical for problem solving, creativity and innovation, and communication and collaboration.  Integrated  learning is defined as the competency to attain, use, and develop knowledge from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, such as the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences, with disciplinary specialization (to think divergently, distinguishing different perspectives), and to incorporate information across disciplines and perspectives (to think convergently, re-connecting diverse perspectives in novel ways).  It is a cumulative learning competency, initiated as a first-year student and culminating as reflected in a graduating senior. Infused throughout this curriculum are the five shared Learning Outcomes of the University of Idaho, which are reflective of the unique mission of the University of Idaho, and consistent with the Essential Learning Outcomes of LEAP (Liberal Education and America’s Promise; see   It is a General Education curriculum which complements and is cohesive with a student’s major field of study, and not a standalone, ‘check-off-the-box’ educational experience.”


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