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Anthropology Research Guide

What is an ethnography?

An ethnography is:

  • A FIRST-HAND, descriptive written account of a particular culture or group, focusing on a particular population, place and time, and all with the goal of accurately describing that culture or ethnic group.
  • This first-hand account is produced through participant observation of the culture or group.
  • It can be either book-length or article-length.
  • Really just an approach to writing about a culture/group.

An ethnography is NOT:

  • Produced second-hand from first-hand accounts.
  • Simple opinion or observation reports without an analytical component. Examples of such reports include travel accounts, short newspaper or popular magazine articles, articles written for general readership like those in National Geographic, and letters to the editor.

From: http://www.library.arizona.edu/help/tutorials/ethnography/whatis.html

Finding ethnographies

Where are ethnographic monographs? Are they shelved in a specific place in the library?

Anthropology books about a certain region of the world are often classified with books on that region and NOT in the general anthropology call number. Similarly, ethnographic monographs written about cultures/groups are classified with the books on that country (eg. Africa, DT; Asia, DS; Latin America, F) or subject (e.g. ethnographies about education will be in the education section).

If they aren't all together in the library, how can I find them?

1) Finding ethnographies in the library catalog:

Ethnographies can be difficult to identify in the catalog because there is no specific subject heading for "ethnography". So, here are some tips for searching for them in discoverE:

  • Identify the correct name of the group you are researching.
  • The most often-used subject heading subheading for ethnographies is "Social life and customs".
  • Another sub-heading that is useful is "case studies". Although most case studies are not ethnographies, some are. You will have to go to the stacks and look at the books to determine if they are actually ethnographies.
  • Try a keyword search with "ethnograph*" in addition to your subject. However, unless the book has "ethnography" as part of the title (and most don't), you won't find much.
  • Do a keyword search combining the name of the group with the aspect of the culture you want to research. Hopefully some ethnographies will turn up. However, the catalog record won't necessarily tell you this and you will have to look at the book to determine if it actually is an ethnography.

2) Search the Anthropology Online database. This is a full-text database of published ethnographies, memoirs, archival material, and selected images.

3) Finding ethnographies using the Anthropology Plus database:

  • Ethnogaphy IS a subject heading in the Anthropology Plus database (which searches for journal articles, book chapters, etc...), so enter your subject terms and the word "ethnography" when you do your search.

4) Try searching the eHRAF World Cultures database. It includes over 100 full text ethnographies.

  • From the home page, click on the Browse CULTURES tab. Browse by region, country, alphabetically, or search. Once you find the culture group in which you are interested, click on the tab labeled Collection Documents.
  • It can be bit clunky to read an ethnography using the eHRAF interface so you may want to search the Emory Library catalog for a another version of the same title.

Films/Videos/DVDs

  • Ethnographic Video Online is a collection of documentary films in streaming video format for the visual study of human culture and behavior. Includes classic and contemporary documentaries produced by leading video producers in the discipline.
  • Emory also owns many films/videos/dvds related to anthropology. These are included in discoverE, the library catalog, but may be difficult to identify. Contact the Anthropology Librarian if you need help identifying films on your topic.
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