ANTH 282 – Research Methods in Anthropology
Fall 2012

Tues-Thurs 11:30-12:45                 

Dr. Denice Szafran                                            
Sturges 14

Sturges 13F, 245-5174                                            
Ofc Hrs W 1-2, T-R 1:30-2:30


This course is an applied (hands on) seminar on research design, field methods, data analysis, proposal writing, and ethical standards and regulations within the field of anthropology. The material is primarily targeted to cultural and medical anthropology students, but is suitable for other social science disciplines as well.

Class members will carry out a series of hands-on exercises, in and out of class, involving observation, interviews, survey construction and administration, and writing and analyzing field notes. Additional field techniques like mapping, household census and inventory, projective testing, grounded theory construction from personal narratives and interviews, will be reviewed. A variety of structured interview techniques will be covered, including ethnographic taxonomies, genealogies, Likert-type scales, semantic analysis, life histories, and focus groups. Anthropological ethics as well as ethical regulations required by institutional review boards (IRB) will be reviewed, and students will practice preparation of IRB protocols. Students will explore the theoretical bases of the methods learned and employed in class, including: social constructivism; post positivism and post-modernism; pragmatism; feminist, race, and queer theories; post-colonialist deconstruction; and disability theories. We will focus on five research methods: narrative; phenomenological; grounded theory; ethnographic; and case study.

The primary objective of this class is to become familiar and comfortable with  a variety of research designs and methods and their theoretical underpinnings, to practice certain field techniques and note-taking, and to gain skill in writing narratives and reports.


1. Students will demonstrate knowledge of the ethical problems associated with doing anthropological research by completing essays addressing this topic.

2. Students will demonstrate knowledge pertaining to content and the foundations of social research, an understanding of scholarly contributions structuring social research, and scholarly understanding of the importance of these contributions in a series of critical essays on these topics. 

3. Students will demonstrate a familiarity with diverse sampling strategies and their applicability to social research by critical assessment of case studies.

4. Students will demonstrate a familiarity and competency in utilizing the strategies of participant observation.  Students will document the positive and negative aspects of this important and significant anthropological data collection method through formal evaluation of case studies and preparation of essays on this topic, and by conducting mini-field projects during which they will record field notes and code them. 

5. Students will demonstrate skills in interviewing by conducting mock interviews (unstructured, semi-structured and structured), skills in conducting social research by creating scales (Guttman, Likert and Semantic Differential Scales), and skills in conducting direct and unobtrusive observation during selected projects. 


Creswell, John W.

2013                  Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five                                              Approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers Inc.

Van Den Hoonaard, Will C., ed.

2002                  Walking the Tightrope: Ethical Issues for Qualitative Researchers.                                              Toronto: Toronto University Press.

In addition, some readings are from two books on reserve at the Milne Library:

Robben, Antonius C. G., and Jeffrey A. Sluka, eds.

2012                  Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. 2nd ed.                                                       Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bernard, Russell H.

2006                  Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative                                              Approaches. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: Altamira Press.

Textbooks are expensive. Feel free to find used copies online or at your local bookstore, or share a book with someone you know in class. Bear in mind we will start reading and working the first week of class.


Assignments include:

1.    A series of field exercises and a research design on topics of interest to each student.

2.    Taking human subjects research training from the NIH.

3.    Drafts of research proposals for IRB review, for academic committees, for graduate school, or for funding agencies.

4.    A five-page paper on ethics in anthropological research.

5.    Presentations to the class on research design and findings.

6.    Class discussions on the methods and methodologies in the readings.

7.    A portfolio detailing ideas for mini-ethnographies, field exercises, research designs, and steps in developing proposals.

Each student may work alone or on a two-person team to carry out the course assignments. Those working on teams must hand in individual portfolios, however. There will be no exams; grades will be based on performance of the activities listed above, as well as participation and attendance in class and on-time submission of materials. Please don’t think this makes this an easy course J.


Participation in class, attendance, submissions on time                20%

Evaluation of portfolio submission 1                                             10%

Research proposal                                                                        10%

Final class presentation                                                                30%

Final portfolio submission                                                             30%


93-100            A                        77-79.99         C+

90-92.99         A-                       73-76.99         C

87-89.99         B+                      70-72.99         C-

83-86.99         B                        63-69.99         D

80-82.99         B-                       <62.99         E


From the first week of class through the end of September, students will:

1.    Try out observations, note-taking, interviewing, and other methods in a variety of settings and with various individuals

2.    Discuss these activities informally in class

3.    Keep a record of these activities in a notebook, a paper folder, or electronically (your portfolio)

By the last class in September each student is asked to decide on a mini-project for the semester and to carry out that project for the next two months.

In October and November students may move along one of two possible paths:

A.   Conduct a practice ethnography on a “microculture” or cultural scene chosen to develop skills in research methods and design, IRB or grant proposals, field notes and analysis, and ethnographic writing and reporting, OR

B.   Begin an actual ethnography or pilot/case study using the student’s own prospective research and field site, writing drafts of actual IRB submissions and actual academic, graduate school, or grant proposals, and presenting preliminary findings and research design to the class.

In December students will report on their projects to the class and submit their portfolios for final evaluation.


·      Deadlines: No late work will be accepted. I understand that there may be situations where you just cannot get work to me on time, or that you may miss an exam – illness, accidents, deaths in the family – but “my dog ate my homework” is old, as are the variations of it. If you have a very good reason why your work was/will be late (with documentation), please notify me as soon as possible, and we can work something out.

·      Attendance: Show up for class.

·      Plagiarism: Presenting another person's work as your own (including downloading materials from the Internet, multiple submissions of the same work, unauthorized collaboration, falsification and/or any other violation of academic integrity) is unacceptable and will result in a 0 grade on the assignment and/or a failing grade in the course.

·      Students with disabilities or special needs should contact the Office of Disability Services. Based on recommendations from that office, students may receive needed assistance, such as additional time or a quiet space to take exams, a reader for exams, and so on.

·      Teaching Philosophy: I teach my classes with the broadest possible examples and try to tie them in to your everyday life and ordinary experiences. I believe that the best educational experiences occur in an open and participatory environment. There will be no "trick questions" on the exams or assignments, and I will make every effort to ensure that you understand exactly what is expected of you.

·      Cell phones: If you are facing an emergency situation which necessitates that you keep your phone on, please notify me before the class begins and be as discrete as you can while in class. Otherwise, I expect that your phone will either be off, or set to vibrate, unless we are using smart phones for research during class. Of course, text messaging during class is rude and out of the question.

·      Laptop use in the classroom creates new and exciting possibilities for teachers and students when used appropriately. Negative participation (surfing, gaming, chatting, emailing) in class is prohibited. Any student found to violate this policy will be asked to discontinue use of the laptop (or PDA, iPhone, etc) for the remainder of the class period. A second occurrence will result in the removal of the student’s laptop privileges for the remainder of the semester and will reduce your grade because you are a distraction to others sitting nearby, and to me.

·               Discussion guidelines: Everyone is expected to comport themselves in a manner that does not convey to others in this classroom any disrespect, intolerance, or rude behavior based on age, race, religion, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, physical attributes, disability, or marital, veteran, or socioeconomic status. Bottom line: if it’s rude or intended to be rude, don’t say it.




Reading Assignments

Due In Class


8/28 - 8/30

Intro to the class and the five approaches to qualitative research

QI chapt 1

WT Intro

EF Chapt 1



Philosophical assumptions and interpretive frameworks

QI chapt 2

WT chapt 1

EF chapt 5

Bring a list of 3-5 possible settings/groups/topics for your research


Designing a qualitative study

QI chapt 3

WT chapt 2

EF chapt 26

Narrow down research choices, write up proposals for one or two


Five approaches to inquiry

QI chapt 4

EF chapt 16

Write up your choice(s) of method


Five approaches to inquiry

WT chapt 3

EF chapt 12

Sept 27 Portfolio


Examples of studies

QI chapt 5

WT chapt 4

EF chapt 39

Makes sure you complete your NIH training by now




Focusing the study

QI chapt 6

WT chapt 5

EF chapt 18

Draft several research models for your portfolio


Data Collection

QI chapt 7

WT chapt 6

EF chapt 11

Continue observations; write up possible ethical issues in your research


Data analysis

QI chapt 8

EF chapt 31

Organize your data into tables, diagrams, thematic lists


Data analysis

WT chapt 7

Paper on ethics in research due the 1st


Writing the study

QI chapt 9

EF chapt 36



Writing the study

WT chapt 8

Draft of a complete proposal to the IRB




Validation and evaluation

QI chapt 10

EF chapt 34

Revise your proposal, prepare to defend it in class




Validation and evaluation

WT chapts 12 and 13

EF chapt 35

Finish writing up your ethnographic accounts


Student presentations



12/13  Noon – 3 pm