University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Ethnographic Chats: A ‘Best of Both’ Method for Ethnography

Selleck, Charlotte (2017) Ethnographic Chats: A ‘Best of Both’ Method for Ethnography. SKY Journal of Linguistics, 30. pp. 151-162. ISSN 1456-8438

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Conventionally, ethnographic methods aim to discover how language works as ‘situated
social practice and how it is tied to social organisation’ (Heller 2011: 10). Within this,
ethnography has viewed participant observation as central and essential. More recently
ethnographers have moved to combine this with more structured, researcher-facilitated
question-based tools such as ethnographic interviews (Spradley 1979) and focus groups. This
article reports on a creative method, aiming to bring together the strengths of both these
approaches to access school-age young people’s orientations to language education policies.
There were three main motivations: firstly to minimise the distracting influence of the
researcher’s presence; and to aid in empowering participants, encouraging them into an active
role in the research process; and to avoid favorability bias in participant responses. On the
latter point, to truly value the voice of participants you have to find creative ways to move
beyond the ‘right answer’. This often requires pushing methodological boundaries in new or
creative ways. Building on prior approaches I developed a new protocol, ‘ethnographic
chats’, which I found offered the ‘best of both’: a compromise between the immersive depth
of participant observation and the greater thematic focus of focus groups or ethnographic
interviews. The method was characterised by specific procedural and interactional
characteristics of frame and genre, which differentiate it from ethnographic interview and
focus group methods in specific ways. Rich data emerged from this process, which would not
otherwise have been available. I conclude by outlining the potential for ethnographic chats in
other social and geographical contexts.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information:

The full-text can be accessed via the Official URL.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: ethnography, ethnographic methods, language education, social and educational research
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
Related URLs:
Copyright Info: Open Access journal
Depositing User: Charlotte Selleck
Date Deposited: 26 Jul 2017 10:41
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2020 17:18

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