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Combining Ethnography with Survey Development

Posted on March 19, 2007

Hirokazu Yoshikawa (bio) discusses a multi-method approach to conducting research in understudied populations.

 

For these understudied populations, Chinese, Mexican, Dominican, African American, low income parents trying to make ends meet in New York City and raise kids, we felt it was very important not to just go in with survey measures that we thought would be important, kind of apriori and just test out our hypotheses, but that we needed to really do some very in-depth ethnographic work even before we fielded our very first survey. So, we spent the first year and a half doing a very intensive ethnography where we visited families every three weeks over a course of about eight months, so we got to know them very well, in a very intensive and short period of time. And that gave us a lot of ideas for how to think about measurement, how to think about the surveys we were going to be fielding and the more quantitative methods that we would be using.

And now as the main study's proceeding, we are fielding all of those of survey kinds of methods, but we're also doing an ethnography. So, for a random sub-sample of each of these larger samples of hundreds of families, for smaller samples we're getting in-depth, qualitative information over time. And so, this particular nested way of combining quantitative and ethnographic studies has been done on a few, actually policy relevant data sets and so we're applying it to the study of immigrant and ethnically diverse families.

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Excerpted from interview with researcher in March 2006.

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