Ethnographic research is a type of research paper which is a descriptive study of society, and is typically used in cultural anthropology, although recent applications are finding widespread use of ethnography in the social studies as well as in architecture and industrial engineering. Ethnographic research entails the following elements:
- Ethnographic research relies extensively on fieldwork
- Ethnographic research demands that the researcher become completely immersed in the society studied on an everyday basis.
- Ethnographic researchers need to maintain objective detachment from their subjects while interacting and participating with them in the normal course of everyday life.
- Research is conducted through participant observation, and the primary methods of data collection include note taking as well as audio and video recordings, and photography.
The ethnographic research method is especially challenging to the research community and presents a myriad of challenges. Researchers, as human beings, naturally approach the subject with some degree of cultural bias that they must try to disassociate themselves from to the greatest degree possible. They must maximize participation in the society they are studying while maintaining as much detachment as they possibly can. Further, they need to be extremely careful not to impact the society they are observing and bring about change as a corollary to their research effort. Finally, in a cultural context, informants are often utilized to provide “inside” information, and researchers need to be cognizant that such informants may harbor ulterior motives and provide non-objective explanations of encountered phenomena
There are many reasons why ethnographic research would be the best approach when dealing with the neighborhood watch program. When looking at the number of complaints filed, the fluctuation in the numbers whether there are more or less can have many different reasons behind them. For example, if the number of complaints is higher than it used to be then one may assume that it is because the neighborhood watch program is effective in watching for suspicious people and making more calls. Another reason for the increase could be that there is actually more crime being committed. Especially when dealing with a suburb of a large metropolitan area.
Ethnographic research combines the human aspect with the scientific data to come up with a more complete view of what is actually happening. This makes for a more accurate analysis of the information and plays into the statistical values of how well the program is working. In this case, ethnographic research is best because it will help determine the reasons for the changes in the volume of complaints and also indicates how the community views and uses the program.