What Do Ethnographers Do with Their Data?

Given both the depth and breadth of ethnographic research, ethnographers collect a good deal of data. Their job then becomes one of finding patterns in that body of collected information. As Wolcott (1999) wrote, “Pattern seeking is not limited to ethnographers—it is basic to good diagnostic procedure—but it is a behavior characteristic among them, something they do almost out of habit” (p. 257). Because ethnography is iterative in that it continually circles back on itself, pattern seeking begins with fieldwork itself. Right from the start, developing research questions, recording field notes, and writing analytic memos about the research process spur the iterative process. As questions emerge, existing ...

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