2008 Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section Inaugural Conference
Conference Venue: University of Leeds
Qualitative Methods in Psychology Section
From: 09 Feb 2008
To: 09 Apr 2008
'Go where the action is'? An exploration of 'real' and 'fictional' data E. Peel
In this paper, we argue that it is more productive to use both ethnography and narrative interviews when conducting research which aims to explore how various ‘cultures of dance’ construct experiences of health and growing older especially in terms of body and mind. When comparing four different dance groups attended by people over the age of fifty, why is it better to conduct a qualitative study using both ethnography and narrative interviews rather than narrative interviews alone? Ethnography provides greater ecological validity because the qualitative researcher has the opportunity to participate in the various cultures from which interviewees are recruited. So the processes of social transformation can be observed, ie how specific ‘cultures of dance’ actually become embodied in material terms. Ethnography has been criticized for too much subjectivity because the researcher produces notes which are the researcher’s selective interpretation of events. Yet the primary aim of ethnography is to describe, and frequently the stories which interviewees tell in a tape-recorded interview, are told informally in the ethnographic setting. The researcher who works ethnographically has a greater understanding of where the interviewees are coming from and so can tailor questions to gain a deeper understanding of the interviewees’ perspectives. Working ethnographically is better for building up trust with potential interviewees, and people who initially may be suspicious of a researcher, after a period of time, decide to be interviewed formally. Similarly, people who are too busy to be interviewed formally may give a valuable informal interview in the ethnographic setting. Ethically it is important that ethnographic studies are conducted openly with information sheets about the research and the opportunity for people to withdraw from the study. It is more labour intensive to set up and sustain an ethnographic study, but combining ethnography with narrative interviews produces deeper findings than a purely qualitative interview study.
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