||Department of Sociology
||University of Toronto
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Emerson, et.al. Writing Ethnographic Field Notes
A cursory perusal of this syllabus might lead you to sigh
and think to yourself, “Not a survey of qualitative methods again! I
did this as an undergraduate! Please erase this thought from your mind. Do you
think scholars of Russian literature show up for their first doctoral level
course and say, “War and Peace? Again? I’ve already read it!” Developing as
scholars over a lifetime requires us to revisit texts and methods, constantly
reflecting on our research tools and the questions to which we apply them.
That said, most of what you read in this class will
probably be new to you. We will not be reading much by way of simple
description of these various qualitative methods. This class assumes basic
knowledge, but you may want to brush up using one of the introductory texts
listed below. Rather, we will be reading critical analyses of them written by
experienced social scientists, and key journal articles and book chapters that
are instructive as illustrations. These examples are chosen for what they can
teach us about where qualitative research has been and is going. They may be
classics, contemporary exemplars, or projects completed by junior scholars.
It is imperative when reading these texts to treat the
process more like an autopsy than a Book of the Month Club. In other words, our
job is to unpack what was done, how, and with what results. Whether we
appreciate the findings or the subject of the research is not our focus. When
you read the research examples, take notes on the question, “how’d they do what
they did?” not on the subject of their article.
Project: The Politics of
Each year, students conduct research in groups of 2-3 on a
shared subject that allows for creativity but provides sufficient structure to
enable completion and gain university ethics approval. 13 weeks is not a lot of
time to introduce you to qualitative methods -- the techniques, analyses, and
exemplars – and to give you time in the field to conduct research. As a
consequence, I have designed a research focus for us all that will enable us to
work and learn together on a manageable project.
The project is timely, illustrates the multitude of ways
you can go about studying something qualitatively, and does not present glaring
ethical dilemmas or negatively impact people in our midst in service of training
graduate students in sociology.
This project is going to require you to formulate a loose
question concerning some aspect of preservation politics that can be answered
using qualitative research methods. We will collectively prepare an ethics
review application, conduct several weeks of research, and prepare reports based
on our findings. My hope is that we will have many fruitful discussions based
on the comparative discussions we will have. We will not be constructing a
literature review in the context of this class, nor is one necessary before we
enter the field. We can think of this research as preliminary and exploratory.
The second week of reading is constructed to give us a sense of the pros and
cons of embarking on research in this manner.
Examples of groups focused on preservation:
- Members of historic preservation societies
- Environmental preservationists
- Children’s Aid workers who aim to keep families
- Anti-gay marriage activists
- Staff at cultural resource centers
- Quebec nationalists
- Students organizing to prevent fee increases
- No or low growth advocates
- Language teachers or enthusiasts (Languages that are
in danger of being lost: Gaelic, Yiddish, Native languages, sign)
- Cheese makers
- Stone masons
Notice that in each of these categories that while the
subject can be sensitive, we are speaking to practiced representatives who are
often trained to speak publicly and seek out opportunities to be heard on these
issues. We are not asking them to deviate from these scripts. In each of these
cases, we are choosing spokespersons, not vulnerable or at-risk populations.
Assignments and Mark Distribution
- Research proposal Due: January 23th
- Question (why is it important? How are you going
to attempt to answer it?)
- Justification for chosen method
- Completed expedited review application for
- Consent form
- Supporting documents (interview schedule, etc.)
- Field Notes Workshop 25%
- Sign up for a week:
- Photocopy 2-3 pages of field notes for classmates
- Write and Photocopy 2-3 page narrative based on
your field notes
- These must be circulated the prior week by email.
- Participation 25%
- Final Portfolio Due April 3 25%
- Field Notes
- Preliminary Research Report
- Analytical reflection on choice of method
Introduction to Qualitative Methods Texts:
- Berg, Bruce L. 2004. Qualitative Research Methods for
the Social Sciences. Boston: Pearson.
- Bryman, Alan. 2001. Social Research Methods.
Oxford: Oxford UP.
- Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy and Michelle L. Yaiser.
2004. Feminist Perspectives on Social Research. NY: Oxford UP.
- Hesse-Biber, Sharlene Nagy and Patricia Leavy. 2004.
Approaches to Qualitative Research: A Reader on Theory and Practice. NY:
- Warren, Carol and Tracy Karner. 2005. Discovering
Qualitative Methods: Field Research, Interviews, and Analysis. Los
- Lofland, John and Lyn Lofland. 1995. Analyzing Social
Settings: A Guide to Qualitative Observation and Analysis. Belmont, CA:
- Davidson, Julia O’Connell and Derek Laydner. 1994.
Methods, Sex, and Madness. NY: Routledge.
- Denzin, Norman K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Handbook of
- Emerson, Robert et. al. 1995. Writing Ethnographic
Fieldnotes. Chicago: U. Chicago Press.
- Ferrell, Jeff and Mark S. Hamm, editors. 1998.
Ethnography on the Edge: Crime, Deviance and Field Research. Boston:
- Lewin, Ellen and William L. Leap. 1996. Out in the
Field: Reflections of Gay and Lesbian Anthropologists. University of
- Marcus, George. 1998.Ethnography Through Thick and
Thin. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP.
- Reinharz, Shula. 1992. Feminist Methods in Social
Research. NY: Oxford UP.
- Twine, France Winddance and Jonathan Warren. 2000.
Racing Research, Researching Race: Methodological Dilemmas in Critical Race
Studies. NY: NYU Press.
- Wolf, Marjory. 1992. A Thrice Told Tale: Feminism,
Postmodernism, and Ethnographic Responsibility. Stanford UP.
- Ragin, Charles and Howard Becker, eds. 1992. What is
a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry. NY and Cambridge:
Useful Methods Websites:
NIH funds qualitative research and held a week long Summer
Qualitative and Mixed Methodologies. NIH's Office of
Behavioral and Social
Science research also published a guide several years ago
wishing to employ qualitative methods entitled "Qualitative
Health Research: Opportunities and Considerations in
Application and Review.
It is available on their website at
researchhas become a significant component of much health research. That being
said, there is a great diversity of methodologies subsumed under the category of
qualitative research, and some are more easily used in mainstream health
research than others.
Relevant Readings on the History of Sociology:
- Mazlish, Bruce. 1989. A New Science: The Breakdown
of Connections and the Birth of Sociology. University Park, PA: The
Pennsylvania State UP.
- Ross, Dorothy. 1991. The Origins of American Social
Science. Cambridge: Cambridge UP.
- Smith, Mark. 1994. Social Science in the Crucible:
The American Debate over Objectivity and Purpose, 1918-1941. Raleigh, NC:
Duke University Press.
- Behar, Ruth and Deborah Gordon, eds. 1995. Women
Writing Culture. Berkeley: UC Press.
- Clifford, James and George Marcus, eds. 1986.
Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: UC
- DaVault, Marjorie. 1999. Liberating Method:
Feminism and Social Research. Philadelphia: Temple UP.
1. January 9 Introduction:
Lecture: What is a case?
Group work: Brainstorming projects
2. January 16 (re)Orienting to Qualitative
- Sherryl Kleinman, et al. Qualitatively Different.
Teaching Fieldwork to Graduate Students. Journal of Contemporary
Ethnography. 25: 469-499.
- Goodwin, Jeff and Ruth Horowitz. 2002. Symposium on
Methodology in Qualitative Sociology. Introduction: The Methodological
Strengths and Dilemmas of Qualitative Sociology. Qualitative Sociology.
- Burowoy, Michael. 1998. The Extended Case Method.
Sociological Theory. 16: 4-33
- Carroll, William K. Critical Strategies for Social
Research. Introduction. Unpacking and Contextualizing Critical Research
Strategies. Pp. 1-14.
- Elliasoph, Nina and Paul Lichterman. 1999. “We Begin
with Our Favorite Theory…” Reconstrcting the Extended Case Method.”
Sociological Theory. 17:228-234.
- Willis, Paul and Mats Trondman. 2002. Manifesto for
Ethnography. Cultural Studies-Critical Methodologies. 2: 394-402.
- Becker, Howard. 2000. Response to Manifesto.
Ethnography. 1: 257-260.
- 2002. Review Symposium: Critis in Representation,
including Michael Flaherty, Norman Denzin, Peter Manning, David Snow.
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 31: 478-516.
- Becker, Howard, Herbert Gans, Katerine Newman, Diane
Vaughan. 2004. On the Value of Ethnography: Sociology and Public Policy.
A Dialogue. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social
- 2002. Review Symposium. Loic Waquant, critic,
Mitchell Dunier, Elijah Anderson, and Katherine Newman, respond.
American Journal of Sociology. 107: 1468-1532.
3. January 23 Getting into the field
- Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chapters 1-5
4. January 30 Access and Ethics
- Humphreys, Laud. 1970. Tearoom Trade:
Impersonal Sex in Public Places. Chicago: Aldine. Chapter 2.
Methods: The Sociologist as Voyeur.
- Fine, Gary Alan. 1993. Ten Lies of Ethnography: Moral
Dilemmas of Field Research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.
- Thorne, B. (1980). "You still takin' notes?'
Fieldwork and problems of informed consent. Social Problems. 27:
- Homan, Roger. 1992. The ethics of open methods.
British Journal of Sociology. 43: 321-332.
- Desroaches, Frederick. 1990. Tearoom Trade: A
Research Update. Qualitative Sociology. 13: 39-61.
5. Feb. 6 Observation
- Whyte, William Foote. 1993 . Street Corner
Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum. Introduction.
Cornerville and its People. Chapter 1. Doc and His Boys. Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
- Horton, John. The Politics of Diversity:
Immigration, Resistance and Change in Monterey Park, California.
Introduction: Multiethnic L.A. and Chapter 2 Building Community at the
- Charmaz, Kathy. Grounded Theory. Approaches to
- Emerson, R., Fretz, R. and Shaw, L. (1995). Writing
ethnographic fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chapters
- Wolf, Diane. 1996. Feminist Dilemmas in Fieldwork.
Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Chapter by Ping-Chun Hsiung. Between Bosses and
Workers: The Dilemmas of a Keen Observer and a Vocal Feminist.
- Strauss, Anselm and Juliet Corbin. 1994. Grounded
Theory Methodology. In Handbook of Qualitative Research edited by
Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- 1992. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.
Special Issue: Street Corner Society Revisited. Volume 21, No. 1.
- Newman, Katherine and Margaret Chin. 2003. High
Stakes: Time Poverty, Testing, and the Children of the Working Poor.
Qualitative Sociology. 26: 3-34.
- Research began w/ New York based survey of 900
individuals, then 100 families drawn for longitudinal qualitative sample
(3 interviews over a 6 year period), then 12 families chosen for study
in great detail.
6. February 13 Interviews
- Rubin, Lillian Breslow. 1976. Worlds of Pain:
Life in the Working Class Family. Chapter 5. Marriage: The Dream and
the Reality-The Beginning Years. NY: Basic Books.
- Nippert-Eng, Christena E. Home and Work:
Negotiating Boundaries Through Everyday Life. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press. Pp. 28-33. Chapter 5. Jimmy, Eleanor, and the Logic of
Boundary Work. Appendix Interview Questionnaire. Pp. 293-306.
- Cotterill, Pamela. Interviewing Women: Issues of
Friendship, Vulnerability, and Power. Women’s Studies International
Forum. 15: 593-606.
- Islam, Naheed. 2000. Research as an Act of
Betrayal: Researching Race in an Asian Community in Los Angeles. In
Racing Research, Researching Race. NY: NYU Press.
- Abu-Lughod, Lila (1988) `Fieldwork of a Dutiful
Daughter', in Soraya Atorki and Camillia Fawzi El-Solh (eds) Arab Women in
the Field: Studying Your Own Society, pp.139-161. Syracuse: Syracuse
- Stacey, Judith. 1990. Brave New Families:
Stories of Domestic Upheaval in Late 20th Century America.
Chapter 3. Pam’s Revelation and Mine. NY: Basic Books.
- Molotch, Harvey. 2003. Where Stuff Comes From: How
Toasters, Toilets, Cars, Computers, and Many other Things Come to be as They
Are. NY: Routledge.
- Giles, Wenona. 2002. Portuguese Women in
Toronto: Gender, Immigration, and Nationalism. Toronto: University of
- A comparison of two generations of Portuguese
women; 60 interviews.
7. February 27 Focus Groups
- Morgan, David L. Focus Groups. Pp. 263-285. In
Approaches to Qualitative Research. Edited by Sharlene Nagy Hesse-Biber
and Patricia Leavy. New York: Oxford UP.
- Hamel, Jacques. 2001. The Focus Group Method and
Contemporary French Sociology. Journal of Socioogy. 37: 341-353.
- Howarth, Caroline. 2002. So You’re from Brixton?
The Struggle for Recognition and Esteem in a Stigmatized Community.
Ethnicities. 2: 237-260.
- Benoit, Cecilia, Dena Carroll, Munaza Chaudhry.
2002. In Search of a Healing Place: Aboriginal Women in Vancouver’s
Downtown Eastside. Social Science and Medicine. 56: 821-833.
8. March 6. Action Research/ Evaluation
- Greene, Jennifer. Qualitative Program Evaluation:
Practice & Promise.
- Couch, Stephen. A Tale of Three Discourses: Doing
Action Research in a Research Methods Class. Social Problems. 51:
- Namaste, Viviane K. Chapter 7. Access Denied: The
Experiences of Transsexuals and Transgendered People with Health Care and
Social Services in Toronto. Invisible Lives: the Erasure of Transexual
and Transgendered People.
- Greenwood, Davydd. 2002. Action Research. Concepts
- Naples, Nancy. 2003. Feminism and Method:
Ethnography, Discourse Analysis, and Activist Research. New York:
9. March 13. Life History
- Hansen, Karen. 1999. Historical Sociology and the
Prism of Biography: Lillian Wineman and the Trade in Dakota Beadwork,
1893-1929. Qualitative Sociology. 22: 353-368.
- Chen, Anthony. 1999. Lives at the Center of the
Periphery, Lives at the Periphery of the Center: Chinese American
Masculinities and Bargaining with Hegemony. Gender & Society. 13:
1999. Falling From Grace: Downward Mobility in an Age of Affluence.
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
150 in-depth life
Gluck, S. and Patai, D,
editors.1991. Women's words: The feminist practice of oral history. New
Plummer, Ken. (1983).
Documents of life: An introduction to the problems and literature of a
humanistic method. London: George Allen and Unwin.
Perks, R. and Thomson,
A. (Eds.) (1998). The oral history reader. London: Routledge.
Hatch, J. and
Wisniewski, R. (Eds.), (1995). Life History and Narrative. Philadelphia:
Watson, Lawrence and
Watson-Franke, M-B. (1985). Interpreting Life Histories. New Brunswick,
NJ: Rutgers University Press.
10. March 20. Photography and Sociology
- Twine, France Winddance. A White Side of Black
Britain: The Concept of Racial Literacy. Ethnic and Racial Studies.
27: 1-30. Photography by Michael Smyth.
- Dunier, Mitch. Sidewalk. NY: FSG.
Introduction. Chapter 1: The Book Vendor. Pp. 1-42. Photography by Ovie
Hagaman, Dianne (1996).
How I learned not to be a photojournalist. Lexington, KY: The University
of Kentucky Press.
- Harper, D. (1994). On the authority of the image. In
Denzin and Lincoln's (1994). Handbook of qualitative research.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage
11. March 27. Discourse Analysis,
Content Analysis, Narrative Analysis
- Dworkin, Shari L and Faye Linda Wachs. “Getting Your
Body Back:” Postindustrial Fit Motherhood in Shape Fit Pregnancy
Magazine. Gender & Society. 18: 610-624.
- Sheller, Mimi. 2003. Consuming the Carribean.
Iconic Islands: Nature, Landscape, and the Tropical Tourist Gaze.
- Julia Erickson. Kiss and Tell: Surveying Sex in the
20th Century. Boston: Harvard UP.
- Analysis of content and findings of 750 sex
surveys conducted in the last 100 years; Reviewed five journals most
likely to have published research based on these surveys; used data from
congressional debates on one particular survey.
- Chen, Xiaobei. 2003. “Cultivating Children as you
Would Valuable Plants”: The Gardening Governmentality of Child-Saving,
Toronto, Canada, 1880s-1920s. Journal of Historical Sociology. 16:
- Conclusions drawn principally from analysis of the
speeches of a prominent child reformer, John Joseph Kelso.
- Hansen, Karen. 1995. “No Kisses is Like Yours:” An
Erotic Friendship Between Two African American Women During the Mid-19th
Century. Gender and History. 7: 153-182.
- Analysis of correspondence comprising 120 letters,
written between 1859 & 1869 by Addie Brown to Rebecca Primus
12. April 3. Analysis and
- Brettell, C. (Ed.) (1993). When they read what we
write: The politics of ethnography.
- Morris, Meaghan. (1998). Publishing perils, and how to
survive them: A guide for graduate students. Cultural Studies, 12(4):
- McCall, Michal and Becker, H. (1990). Performance
Science Social Problems, 37(1): 117-132
- Blank, Grant. 2004. Teaching Qualitative Data
Analysis to Graduate Students. Social Science Computer Review. 22:
- La Pelle, Nancy. Simplifying Qualitative Data
Analysis Using General Purpose Software Tools. Field Methods. 16:
- Worth reading before purchasing a program
13. April 10 Presentations