TF 5000

Professor Hervé Varenne

Fall 1995

Tuesdays 5:10-6:50

The methods of behavioral and social sciences as they relate to ethnography and participant observation. Emphasis on the role of theory, characteristics and relative efficiencies of various re- search techniques, and the importance of integrated research design.

Ethnography, participant observation, naturalistic or field research, are various ways of referring to a set of methods and techniques developed by behavioral scientists convinced that human beings are best studied by listening to them and their concerns in the environments where they are usually found: in the streets, at home, in small groups and communities, etc. Some psychologists, many sociologists, and most anthropologists have contributed in various ways to the development of the method and to the beginnings of its codification. Students must now consider this experience to build on it in their own research.

This course is an introduction to the method, its epistemological grounding, and some of the techniques most frequently used. It is designed to explain the method to all students whether they plan to use it for their own research. To this extent the course emphasizes breadth of coverage over depth of discussion of particular issues. It also emphasizes preparation for field research (and proposal writing) over the handling of specific difficulties arising during the course of research. The latter matters are handled in the other courses in the sequence (TF5001 and TF5002).

Office Hours

I am available on Thursdays afternoons, from 1 to 3, and by appointment ([212] 678-3190) in room 278 DH. Phone coverage is intermittent. Leave messages on the machine.

You can also send me electronic messages ("herve varenne"


The main requirement for this course is a proposal for a research design for an original ethnographic study. The whole course is designed to help the student do this.

In brief, a proposal answers three questions: (1) What problem is to be studied? (2) Why is it worth studying? (3) How will it be studied?

Students should decide as soon as possible what they want to study, and why. They will then work at writing the best research design possible to address the research topic, answer the research questions. The idea at this stage is plan a study without consideration of practical exigencies (e.g., time or money). It should be the best way to study what is to be studied.

The first draft of the paper will be due October 31. This "Paper One" will consist of the what you want to study portion (Questions 1 & 2). Paper Two, due December 19, will refine Paper One, and add to it the research design component (Question 3). The separation of the two papers will enable authors to refine or narrow their problems into projects which can be adequately addressed by ethnographic designs.

Paper Two will form the basis of the course grade. Students should review the criticisms of "Proposal 2" in Locke before writing Paper 2. Paper One will receive comments and feedback. Paper One should be 5-10 pages or so in length, and Paper Two no more than 15-20 pages in length (double spaced).

In preparing the proposals, students should find the following book useful, and it is required:

Locke, Spirduso, and Silverman, Proposals That Work. Sage Publications, 1987

Also think about the implications for proposals of Judd, Smith and Kidder's Chapter 19, and Bernard's Chapters 5 and 6.

Required Reading

[starred and bolded items are required from all. Students seriously interest- ed in the method should also look at the other items.]

  9/12  Introduction: Every researcher is a theorist

        Kaplan, A.  The conduct of inquiry.  Scranton, Penn.: Chandler
Publishing Company, 1964.
           (Chapter 1, pp. 3-33)

  9/19  Theory, research design, and proposals

     *  LeCompte, M. & Preissle, J.  Ethnography and Qualitative Design in
Education Research, Academic
           Press, 1984. (Ch. 1)

        Bernard, H. Russell.  Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology, Sage,
1988. Ch. 1.

        Bruyn, Severyn  The human perspective in anthropology: The methodology
of participant observation.
        Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. 1966  Ch. 1

  9/26  Proposals

     *  Locke, Spirduso, LeCompte, Preissle, and Silverman, Proposals That
Work. Sage Publications,
           1987. (Ch 1 & 4)

  10/3  Participant Observation: Generalities

        LeCompte & Preissle, Ch. 3, 4.

     *  Judd, C.M., Smith, and Kidder, L.  Research methods in Social
Relations, Sixth Edition, Holt,
           Rinehart and Winston, 1991. (Ch. 12-13)

        Malinowski, Bronislaw  "Introduction." Argonauts of the Western
Pacific, pp. 1-25.  New York: E.P.
           Dutton. 1961 [1922]
  10/10  Doing ethnography: Science and the humanities

        LeCompte & Preissle, pp. 158-177, Ch. 6.

        Bernard, Ch. 7-8.

     *  Golde, Peggy.  Women in the Field, Univ. of California Press, 1985.

  10/24  Ethics: Principles and regulations

     *  Judd, Smith and Kidder, Chapter 20.

     *  AAA Ethics Materials, Bernard Appendix B

  10/31  Writing field notes: class exercise

     *  Roger Sanjek  "A vocabulary for fieldnotes." in his Fieldnotes: The
makings of anthropology, 92-
           121. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. 1990


  11/14  Interviewing as context

        LeCompte & Preissle, pp. 177-204.

     *  Bernard, Ch. 10 & 11

        Judd, C.M., Smith, and Kidder, L.  Research methods in Social
Relations, Sixth Edition, Holt,
           Rinehart and Winston. (Ch. 1-2)

        Cannell and Kahn, "Interviewing" in Lindzey and Aronson, eds.,
Handbook of Social Psychology, 
           526-595.  Addison-Wesley, 1969.
  11/21 Systematic observation: Pens, audio tapes, video tapes

     (Class exercise)

        Whiting and Whiting, "Methods for Observing and Recording Data" in
Naroll and Cohen, eds., A
           Handbook of Method in Cultural Anthropology, 282-315. Columbia
University Press, 1970. 

     *  Erikson, F.  "Audiovisual records as a primary data source." in
Sociological methods and
           research. Vol. 11 213-233. 1982

        Goodwin, C. "Suggestions for recording human interaction in natural

  11/28 Transcriptions: Theory and practice

     *  Ochs, E. "Transcription as Theory." in Developmental Pragmatics. Ed.
by E. Ochs and B.
           Schieffelin, 43-72. New York: Academic Press. 1979 

        Varenne, H. Ambiguous harmony: Family talk in America. Norwood, NJ:
Ablex Publishing Corp..
           1992 (Chap. 1 & 2)

  12/5  Analysis: archives, content, indexes

     *  LeCompte & Preissle, Ch. 7 & 8.

        Judd, Smith and Kidder, Ch. 15.

        Holsti, Ole. "Content Analysis" in Lindzey and Aronson, eds., Handbook
of Social Psychology,  596-

  12/13 Proposals for ethnography: systematic strengths and specific