Understanding Communication Research Methods
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Understanding Communication Research Methods

A Theoretical and Practical Approach

Stephen M. Croucher, Daniel Cronn-Mills

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eBook - ePub

Understanding Communication Research Methods

A Theoretical and Practical Approach

Stephen M. Croucher, Daniel Cronn-Mills

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About This Book

Using an engaging how-to approach that draws from scholarship, real life, and popular culture, this textbook, now in its third edition, offers students practical reasons why they should care about research methods and offers a practical guide to actually conducting research themselves.

Examining quantitative, qualitative, and critical research methods, this new edition helps undergraduate students better grasp the theoretical and practical uses of method by clearly illustrating practical applications. The book features all the main research traditions within communication including online methods and provides level-appropriate applications of the methods through theoretical and practical examples and exercises, including sample student papers that demonstrate research methods in action. This third edition also includes additional chapters on experimental design and methods of performance, as well as brand new case studies throughout.

This textbook is perfect for students and scholars using critical, cultural, interpretive, qualitative, quantitative, and positivist research methods, as well as students of communication studies more generally.

It also offers dedicated student resources on the Routledge.com book page and instructor resources at https://routledgetextbooks.com/textbooks/instructor_downloads/. These include links, videos, outlines and activities, recommended readings, test questions, and more.

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8 Ethnography

What Will I Learn About Ethnography?

The photo shows the outside of a typical Finnish sauna. The sauna is located in Jyväskylä, Finland. Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture and a place to socialize as a family, conduct business, and relax. Saunas in Finland date back hundreds of years. The nation has roughly five million people and more than two million saunas, showing just how significant the sauna is for Finnish people. When Stephen first moved to Finland, he had to learn quickly about Finnish sauna culture. Stephen had to adapt culturally to Finnish life. Other scholars have commented on the need to understand and adapt to Finnish sauna life. Edelsward (1991) described how the sauna is an important part of becoming Finnish, learning about Finnish culture, and being accepted by many Finns. Scholars of cultural adaptation (Croucher, 2008; Kim, 2001; Kramer, 2003) have argued important elements of adapting to a new culture include learning about the culture and being accepted by the host culture. When considering the relationship between the Finnish sauna and adapting to Finnish culture, a researcher could ask various questions: 1) how does one learn culturally appropriate communication behaviors related to the Finnish sauna? 2) how does one truly experience a Finnish sauna? (a performance of communication question) 3) how does one experience Finnish culture through a Finnish sauna? Among the methods one could use to approach this research are: interviews, statistics, and content analysis. Ethnography is the method we explore in this chapter.

Ethnography Defined

Ethnography originally comes from cultural anthropology (Malinowski, 1922). Ethnography is the study of, writing about, and/or a description of (graphy) people or folk (ethno) (Berg, 1998; Spradley, 1979). Ethnography is, at its essence, attempting to describe a culture from the viewpoint of a cultural insider (Denzin & Lincoln, 2003). By using ethnography, the researcher describes individuals’ behaviors while inferring meaning from those behaviors. The researcher draws inferences from cultural knowledge they have. Cultural knowledge includes the explicit and implicit cultural knowledge we have about life. Explicit knowledge includes things we know and can easily talk about.
Edelsward (1991) conducted an ethnographic analysis on Finnish saunas. Edelsward described how the sauna is a place for people to come together with nature and culture. Edelsward provided a thick description of sauna life and its relationship to Finnish culture. Geertz (1973) described thick description as a detailed explanation of a social setting and lives of the people. Thick description is integral to ethnography. The description is the foundation of an ethnography. The description shows culture in action. We discuss thick description and how to write an ethnography later in this chapter. One can take various ethnographic approaches. We outline three approaches: 1) ethnography of speaking, 2) ethnography of communication, and 3) autoethnography.

Approaches to Ethnography

Ethnography of Speaking

Hymes’ (1962) ethnography of speaking (EOS) is a method for studying culturally specific communication practices and patterns. EOS is the analysis of factors relevant to understanding how a communication event accomplishes its goals. Philipsen (1992) stated that EOS consists of “hearing and representing distinctive ways of speaking in particular speech communities” (p. 9). Two assumptions are key to the EOS approach. First, speaking differs across cultures. Second, speaking represents social life and, thus, tells us something distinct about the group. Therefore, observing and describing the speech behaviors of a group can tell us a lot about a group. Numerous scholars following an EOS approach have found that our speaking informs us about cultures (Basso, 1970; Croucher, 2008; Engstrom, 2012; Leitner, 1983; Philipsen, 1975; Pratt & Weider, 1993; Zenk, 1988). The acronym SPEAKING was developed by Hymes (1962/1974) to explain how to conduct an EOS analysis within a speech community. A speech community is a group of individuals who share a common set of norms/rules for interpreting and using speech (Carbaugh, 2005; Philipsen, 1992). The SPEAKING framework is a list of key questions to ask when conducting an EOS analysis. See Figure 8.1 for a description of the SPEAKING framework.

Ethnography of Communication

Closely linked to Hymes’ (1962, 1964, 1974) ethnography of speaking is ethnography of communication. Scholars who conduct ethnography of communication (EOC) research focus on the speech acts/events within communities but are more interested in learning and comparing the shared and varied codes of communication among and between groups (Cameron, 2001; Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). Ethnographers recognize that not every social group communicates the same way and are interested in how “shared meaning and coordinated action vary across social groups” (Philipsen, 1989, p. 258). EOC scholars combine linguistic and anthropological approaches to research. Various scholars have approached ethnography from the EOC approach and/or combined the EOC with the EOS approach (Carbaugh, 2005; Croucher, 2006; Croucher & Cronn-Mills, 2011; Katriel, 1990; Katriel & Philipsen, 1981; Philipsen, 1975; Sherzer, 1983).
Here is an example of how Stephen’s encounters with Finnish sauna life could be analyzed using SPEAKING (EOS) and the EOC approach:
The job of EOS and EOC scholars is to provide thick description (Geertz, 1973) of the community they are studying. Whether using the SPEAKING framework (EOS) or focusing less specifically on language use (EOC), your study should provide a clear understanding of the phenomena you set out to explore. You need to provide and analyze specific examples to back up your claims (we talk more about this in the Claims section later in the chapter). Examples are your data and can come from a variety of sources (e.g., interviews, observation, media, documents, artifacts), which we outline in detail later. Ethnographies from the EOS and EOC approaches are typically written in the first perso...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Understanding Communication Research Methods
APA 6 Citation
Croucher, S., & Cronn-Mills, D. (2021). Understanding Communication Research Methods (3rd ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from https://www.perlego.com/book/2805293/understanding-communication-research-methods-a-theoretical-and-practical-approach-pdf (Original work published 2021)
Chicago Citation
Croucher, Stephen, and Daniel Cronn-Mills. (2021) 2021. Understanding Communication Research Methods. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis. https://www.perlego.com/book/2805293/understanding-communication-research-methods-a-theoretical-and-practical-approach-pdf.
Harvard Citation
Croucher, S. and Cronn-Mills, D. (2021) Understanding Communication Research Methods. 3rd edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://www.perlego.com/book/2805293/understanding-communication-research-methods-a-theoretical-and-practical-approach-pdf (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Croucher, Stephen, and Daniel Cronn-Mills. Understanding Communication Research Methods. 3rd ed. Taylor and Francis, 2021. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.