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Introduction to Cognitive Ethnography and Systematic Field Work
Introduction to Cognitive Ethnography and Systematic Field Work by G. Mark Schoepfle provides a guide to the fundamentals of cognitive ethnography for qualitative research. A focus of this technique is collecting data from flexible but rigorous interviews. These interviews are flexible because they are designed to be structured around the semantic knowledge being elicited from the speaker, not around some pre-conceived design that is based on the researcher’s background, and they are rigorous because the basic linguistic and semantic structures are shared among all cultures. Written by one of the founders of this technique, this text provides a wealth of concentrated knowledge developed over years to best suit this collaborative and participant-centric research process.

Eight chapters show how intertwined data collection and analysis are in this method. The first chapter offers a brief history and overview of the cognitive ethnography. Chapter 2 covers planning a research project, from developing a research question to ethics and IRB requirements. The next two chapters cover interview background, techniques, and structures. Chapter 5 addresses analysis while Chapter 6 covers transcription and translation. Chapter 7 covers observation, while a final chapter address writing a report for both consultants and outside audiences.

CHAPTER 1 • Orientation to Ethnography and Cognitive Ethnography

Material Culture and Cultural Durability

Kinds of Ethnography

Abductive Reasoning in Cognitive Ethnography

How Ethnography Differs From Journalism

Everyone Is Biased and Must Cope With the Fact

Preparation for an Ethnographer’s Career: Ethnographer as Expert Witness

CHAPTER 2 • Planning and Proposing a Research Project
The Proposal

The Parties Involved: Peer Review and Institutional Review Boards

CHAPTER 3 • The Semantic Unity of the Ethnographic Interview
The Lexical-Semantic Field Theory and the MTQ Schema

Specialized MTQ Interview Techniques

CHAPTER 4 • The Natural History of the Ethnographic Interview
The Natural History of the Interview

Grand-Tour and Mini-Tour Questions About People Through Personal Networks: The Crystalized Structure of a “Snowball Sample”

CHAPTER 5 • Ethnographic Analysis With Complex Logical-Semantic Relationships
Enhancing MTQ Analyses

Analysis of Complex Semantic Relationships

Ethnographic Decision Models: Entering Choice Into VAPs

Applying Decision Models in Cognitive Ethnography

CHAPTER 6 • Language Transcription and Translation
Interview Transcription

Interview Translation

CHAPTER 7 • Observation
Proposed Justifications for Sole Reliance on Observation

Kinds of Observation

The Application of Photography to Interview and Observation

Observation and Evidence

CHAPTER 8 • Writing the Ethnographic Report
Four Major Report-Writing Styles: Descriptive, Analytical, Synthetic, and Case Study

When Schema Are Not Available or Have Not Been Generated

Organizing the Report

A Final Word on Native Coresearchers


This is an exceptional text that manages to cover topics and materials that many students approach with a degree of trepidation in manner that is student friendly, while at the same time providing them with a solid theoretical foundation to build on.

Jason R. Jolicoeur
Southeast Community College
Key features
  • Written by one of the co-founders of cognitive ethnography
  • Authors provide practical tips as well as the theoretical basis for the technique
  • Covers the research process in cognitive ethnography from start to finish
  • Significant coverage of the interview process, one of the key parts of the research process
  • Unique chapter on language translation and transcription 
  • Final chapter on writing a report sums up the research project and promotes dissemination of results

Sage College Publishing

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