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Projects in Ethnographic Research by Michael V Angrosino 2005.

Projects in Ethnographic Research by Michael V Angrosino 2005.


In a neatly presented, logically organized, and beautifully written report, you will describe the life experiences of a Mexican or Mexican American (preferably an elderly relative). This should also be someone that has significant memories to share (from life in Mexico and/or the U.S.). The report must be at least 7 double-spaced typed pages in length. Of course it can be longer. The typing must be in 12 font. Of course, you will need to have approval of the person that you plan on doing your report on before interviewing him/her. Your report should be organized as follows:

The first part of your report will be based on the information that you gathered during the interview (You should tape record the interview to refer back to later). You will be using the list of question that you prepare ahead of time. Here are a few to consider using:

General Questions:

What year were you born? Where?
How many family members do you have?
What did you do for fun?
Where are your parents from? Where are your grandparents from?
What did your parents/grandparents do?
Where did you go to school? What was school like? How were your teachers?
Were you in vocational classes? Migrant Education classes?
Were you an activist in school?
What problems did you face? How did it make you/your family feel?
Were you raised by your parents to speak English or Spanish? Why?
Do you consider yourself to be Mexican or American? Both? Explain.
How important is your cultural identity? Did you think about your cultural background while you were growing up?
What ethnic/racial background were your childhood friends?
What do you remember about your community?
What did you do for fun?
Were you farm workers?
Were you cannery workers?
What kind of work do you do now? Do you like your job?
Do you have any regrets?
Have you experienced any discrimination? Explain.
Do you recall ever being treated unfairly or feeling uncomfortable?
What experiences do you remember about interaction with people of other backgrounds? Other classes?
What languages do you speak at home or in public?
Do you tend to view and listen to Spanish or English language TV/Radio?
What is your favorite type of music? What radio stations do you listen to?
Are you involved in any cultural or artistic organizations. Do you attend any such events? Which ones?
Do you tend to celebrate American or Mexican celebrations or both?
Has the fact that you are female/male affected your life’s experiences significantly? In what ways?
What advice do you have for someone that is considering coming to the U.S.?
What major changes occurred in your lifetime?
In looking back, what would you have done differently?
Have you achieved the goals so far?
Questions for interviewee born in Mexico
What year did you come to the U.S.? Why? From where did you come? How did you come?
How old were you when you came?
How did you feel about coming over?
What were you doing before you came over? Did you go to school?
Were you an activist in school?
What did you expect to experience in the U.S.? Were you nervous?
Anyone in your family fight in the Mexican Revolution?
Were you a Bracero? Any Braceros in your family?
Do you recall the ’68 Olympics in Mexico? The Massacre at Tlaltelolco?
Do you recall the assassination of Donaldo Colosio?
Any recollections on Propositions 187, 209 or 227?
Did you already have family here?
How have you been treated here in the U.S. compared to your treatment in Mexico?
What did you know about the U.S. before arriving?
What are major differences between Mexico and the U.S.?
What do you like best about Mexico? What do you like the least?
What do you like best about the U.S.? What do you like the least?
Do you think that living here in the U.S. changes a Mexican that much? How?
Is your family structure different here than in Mexico?
Do you travel back to Mexico regularly?
Do you have any regrets about coming to the U.S.?
Do you know of anyone who has been deported?
How do you feel about the recent presidential elections?
What advice do you have for someone coming over from Mexico?


This section should be written in essay form (not question and then answer!).
You may also write it in story form.

Remember, you should tailor the questions according to what they’ve experienced.
Also remember, it is not required that you ask all these questions:


In this section you will give an historical background that will help us understand your interviewee’s experience a little better. The following is list of questions to help you get started.

What historical events, if any, influenced your interviewee’s experiences?
What were the immigration policies like in their country and the U.S. (or, if applicable, California)?
What were relations like between the two countries? What were the “issues” on immigration?
What were some of the issues facing the Mexican/ Chicano community at that time>?
What was the U.S. economy like at that time (jobs)?
How did the social/political climate help shape the experience of the person that you interviewed?
Did any specific events help or hurt their experience? How?
Was your interviewee’s experience similar to everyone else at that time or was their experience an “exception to the rule?”
Anyone in your family ever a Bracero (guest worker) in the 40’s and 50’s?
Did you or any family member fight in WWII? What was your/their experience?
Were you or any family members cannery workers?
Do you recall the killing of the Kennedy’s?
Do you recall the landing on the moon?
Did you or any of your family fight in Viet Nam?
Were you or any of your family farm workers? Were you involved with the United Farm Workers (UFW) movement?
Do you recall the Chicano Movement?
What about the Massacre of students during the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City?
Do you remember the civil wars in Central America during the 1980’s?
What do you recall regarding NAFTA
Do you recall any of the propositions passed here in California during the 1990’s such as Proposition 187, 209 or 227? Did it affect you or your family member or friend?
What do you think of the war in Iraq?
What do you think about the election of first black president Barack Obama?
What are your feelings towards the War in Afghanistan?
What do you think about the recent Immigration marches?
What do you think about the immigration laws passed in Arizona?

In this section you will utilize the six C’s model (class, culture, color, contact, conflict, and change) to analyze your interviewee’s life experiences. Be sure to use specific examples from their life that will support any conclusions that you make.


In this final section the larger purpose of this assignment is your experience as an anthropologist. Please discuss your anthropological experience, discuss the challenges, benefits, limitations, and importance of this assignment.

Be sure to find a person that you are genuinely interested in writing an oral history on. This project is actually something that you should have a fun with!

Projects in Ethnographic Research by Michael V Angrosino 2005.



The Interview (part one) —————- ——————————————————-10 pts

Historical background (part two) ————————————————————-10 pts

Final Analysis (part three) ———————————————————————10 pts
This section must integrate ALL of the “6C’s” in the analysis.

Meta- Analysis (part four) ———————————————————————-5 pts
Discuss your ethnographic experience regarding challenges, benefits, limitations

and importance of this assignment.

A Timeline —————————- ———————————————————–5 pts
That illustrates some of the important dates/ events in the life of your interview.

Seven pages minimum, neat and organized, 12 font and double spaced——————-5 pts.

A Class Presentation. —————————————————————————–5 pts
Your class presentation can be as creative as you like (visual always help)


TOTAL 50 Pts.

Projects in Ethnographic Research by Michael V Angrosino 2005.

* Practical considerations for conducting Ethnographic Research

Make sure you choose an Interviewee (key informant) who is Mexican or Chicano. Get permission from them in advance before conducting interviews. The person you choose preferably should be a family member, and if not, an elderly person. Make sure the person genuinely wants to be interviewed and be sure that this person is someone that you genuinely want to interview. Do not interview someone simply because they are available and it is convenient.
You will need supplies to carry out your research (notebook, pens, pencils, index cards, etc.)
You will need special equipment to carry out your research (camera? video recorder? Audio recorder? Lap top computer? Batteries?) And if so, do you have everything in good working order? Do you have extra batteries? At the very least you will need an audio recorder and extra batteries and blank tapes.
Consider conducting one follow up interview. After the interview, ask permission to return (only if necessary) to conduct a shorter follow up interview.

Types of Ethnographic Interviews

The exploratory interview is often described as an in depth technique because the topic is dealt with in great detail. It may also be described as an open ended interview because the interviewer avoids “forced choice,” yes or no questions in favor of those that lend themselves to extended narrative responses that are open to any and all relevant responses.

When conducting an exploratory interview the researcher must:

Remember how the specific topic of the interview relates to and illuminates the larger theme of the study.

Decide whether the person being interviewed is staying on topic and, if not, how to be diplomatic in steering the conversation back in the right direction. Sometimes what seems like a digression something of real importance to the person being interviewed.

Probe for the meaning of unfamiliar terms and clarify potentially confusing matters as dates, spelling of names, and chronologies.

A semi-structured interview (sometimes referred to as a focused interview), consists of predetermined questions related to a very specific topic to confirm or reject ideas raised by the exploratory interview.


Keep the following things in mind when constructing questions for a semi- structured interview

Use language that is understandable as opposed to academic jargon.
Questions should be brief.
Avoid leading questions.
Avoid questions that put ideas into people’s heads.
Avoid negative worded questions such as, ”don’t you think abortion is wrong?”
Do not ask questions that can be answered’ yes’ or ‘no’ when you need more descriptive answers.
Be sensitive to the cultural nuances of questions.

A few points regarding the ordering of semi-structured interview questions

Ask questions in temporal sequence (from earlier events to more recent ones).
Ask questions in ascending order of complexity (from simple to more complex).
Ask questions on a single topic first before moving to the next topic.
Ask questions beginning with the most concrete working up to the most abstract.
Ask the least threatening questions first.

* Source: Projects in Ethnographic Research by Michael V Angrosino 2005.





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