19 SES 11, The Role and Experiences of Writing in Ethnographic Research
The writing of ethnographic field-notes is an essential part of the ethnographic process. A major concern regarding observational notes written in the field relates to the nature of these field-notes; whose reality do they represent, how is this reality portrayed and who judges its validity. Qualitative research, unlike quantitative research, does not have a mathematical scientific epistemology upon which to validate its activity. Ely et al (1992) argue that ‘Narrative is a method of enquiry and a way of knowing – a discourse and analysis – just as scientism and quantitative research have methods and ways. The ethnographer is the analytical instrument; their perspectives, analyses and re-presentation are the main methodological instrument that carries out the research. The validity of their representation cannot be seen as ‘a true account’, but it can be a ‘subtle reality’ (Hammersley, 1992), in which the representation is seen as relevant, plausible and creditable and validated by the ethnographer’s peers through review and critique. This subtle reality will appear to the readers of these representations as a vraisemblance, a representation of a situation or context as a valid account according to their experiences in similar situations or those similar experiences described in the literature.
This symposium will commence with an introduction to the kind of writing carried out in an ethnography (Jeffrey). We will then focus on issues concerning: collaborative analysis of fieldnotes over digital connections, (Parker Webster etal); the effects on the ethnographer of a close collaborative approach to fieldnotes (Raggl), a description of an ethnographer ‘being’ in the situation and ‘with’ the participants and the effect on fieldnotes (Thomson) and lastly a paper on fieldnotes in relation to children’s perspectives and engagement (Clemente and Milstein).
Atkinson, P., 1991 The Ethnographic Imagination: textual construction of reality (London Routledge) Brewer, J, D. 2000 Ethnography, (Buckingham, Open University Press) Clifford, J, (1990) Notes on (Field)notes In Fieldnotes: The makings of anthropology, R, Sanjek (Ed.), p 47-70 Denzin, N., (1997) Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21st Century (London Sage) Ely, M., Vinz, R., Downing, M., Anzul, M. (1997), On writing qualitative research: Living by words (London Falmer Press) Hammersley, M. (1992) Some reflections on ethnography and validity. Qualitative studies in education 5 (3): pp.193-203. Tyler S. (1986), ’Post-modern ethnography: from document of the occult to occult document’ in J. Clifford and G. Marcus, Writing Culture, (Berkley, CA. Univesity of California Press) Van Maanen, J. (1988) Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. (Chicago, University of Chicago Press) Walcott, The Art Of Fieldwork, (1995), (Walnut Creek, CA, AltaMira Press) Woods, P. (1996) Researching the art of teaching, Routledge, London (p.98)
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