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Research Methods

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This is a brief essay on anthropological, and sociological research methods. Cultural Anthropology is a branch of Anthropology that deals with the history, origins, and growth of human culture. Whereas, Merriam-Webster defines Sociology as “the systematic study of the development, structure, interaction, and collective behavior of organized groups of human beings”.

In Cultural Anthropology I will describe two research methods: participant observation and cross-cultural comparison. Participation observation, is a form of qualitative research, and can be described as “the process of establishing rapport within a community and learning to act in such a way as to blend into the community, so that its members will act naturally, then remove themselves from the setting or community to immerse oneself in the data to understand what is going on and be able to write about it”(Bernard, 1994). There are many variables of methods used in participation observation, for example: direct observation, participation within the group being studied, interviews, focus groups, and collective discussions. Participation observation studies can last from a few months to many years. The longer the study, the more relaxed the subjects become, and the more detailed information that can be collected for research. In philosophy, participation observation is under the theoretical perspective of interpretivism. Interpretivists believe that one’s interpretation of the world is based on their own interactions and experiences. “Knowledge and truth are created, not discovered; the world is only known through people’s interpretation of it…truth is arrived at not by seeking correspondence, but by seeking consensus; not by looking for a perfect match, but by finding a reasonable fit; not by assuming detachment but by assuming commitment. Truth, therefore, is relative rather than absolute; it depends upon time and place, purpose and interests (Pratt, 1998, p.23).


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