Chapter 2 demystifies practices of ethnographic research by discussing the balance between structure and serendipity surrounding its design. The author pursues this in two ways: first, by discussing the dynamic mode of structured improvisation through which ethnographers perform their research and, second, by introducing a framework for ethnographic decision-making—based on the concept of social science sampling—which highlights many of the major considerations affecting the research choices ethnographers make. Through this discussion, the author illustrates the complementary strategic and improvisational imperatives that in-the-field ethnographers embody. The second part of the chapter is organized around several key phases of the research process including (a) the choice of a research topic; (b) decisions regarding research settings; (c) aspects of data collection—including expanding on the first chapter’s discussions of positionality, fieldnote writing, and interviewing; and (d) techniques and sensibilities through which researchers analyze their data.
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