The Values and Virtues of Solicited Ethnographic Journals

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Casey STRANGE, North Carolina State University, USA
Holly BENTON, North Carolina State University, USA
Maxine THOMPSON, North Carolina State University, USA
Ethnographers often struggle with gaining access to certain populations and/or witnessing social interactions that occur outside of their own experiences. Our research team sought to circumvent this issue by soliciting ethnographic observations and reflections from the participants themselves. As part of a year-long study of microaggressions on a large predominately white public university campus in the Southeast of the United States, we solicited student ethnographic observation reports and reflections (i.e., journals) as a means of capturing the occurrence of microaggressions in everyday life, as well as students’ reactions to these interactions. Student ethnographic contributors represented approximately the demographic diversity of the undergraduate student body of the campus. Their reports yielded a much more diverse array of microaggressive experiences than would likely have been captured by any single researcher, particularly one with a majority group status. While there is limited research on solicited ethnographic observations and reflections, we find that this method for data collection allows us to obtain deeper insight into microaggressions than previous research, which relies primarily on interviews and focus groups of marginalized respondents. We explore the advantages and limitations of soliciting ethnographic journals in comparison with more traditional qualitative data collection methods. We highlight the rich data such journal entries can yield, particularly with respect to student reflections provided in this study. We draw on our data to demonstrate potential for high quality data collection when soliciting ethnographic journals from students provided with some training in ethnographic methods. We advocate for the use of this method across research settings and highlight the usefulness of this method in a campus setting particularly.