Ethnographers tend to be uneasy about survey research. Some of us shun it because it seems “reductive” of human experience; others are intimidated by complex methods and analytics that weren’t part of our research training. But surveys are everywhere—some are rigorous and insightful, many are lousy. Whether we’re conducting surveys, collaborating with colleagues who do, or interpreting survey-based studies, an understanding of survey research fundamentals is essential.
Tutorial offers survey basics from an ethnographer and survey methodologist who collaborate at the world’s leading provider of media and marketing information. Their crash course on survey fundamentals includes:
when to use surveys and why
basics of survey design
writing effective survey questions
evaluating survey quality
the total survey error framework
how ethnographers and survey researchers can add value to each others’ work
This tutorial is designed for...
As a team of researchers was asked by a French home-improvement retailer to redefine their strategy, they designed and carried out an ethnographic and quantitative research to identify new business opportunities. But no sooner had they set foot in field, they were struck not only by the richness and complexity of such ordinary activities to the point they asked themselves if these practices were even measurable? Scaling from ethnography to quantitative research was not as seamless as they expected, they had to find their way to deal with two sets of data that belong to different scales if not ontological worlds. Are these two scales really strictly separated? Can't there be a way to combine them and to make them coincide? Based on the study of DIYing practices, this case study presents an attempt to integrate ethnographic and quantitative research and the challenge of resolving the scale differences between two methodologies. From turning DIYers into numbers and vice-versa, it explores the implications...
by MERITXELL RAMÍREZ-I-OLLÉ
When my boss asked me to carry out an employee opinion survey in our company, I had to overcome my ingrained prejudices against surveys in general. Once I did, I learned how valuable an ethnographic approach to surveys can be.
In my previous academic work, I had embedded myself into a scientific community for more than three years and I disregarded surveys as a comparatively superficial research technique. In my consultancy work, I have also encountered sharp criticism of the way surveys are used in practice: Erica Hall calls surveys “the most dangerous research tool,” and Sam Ladner’s fabulous guide to doing ethnography in the private sector (2012:17), emphasizes the value of ethnography that captures the perspectives of research participants, as opposed to tools like surveys that reflect the “etic” position of researchers. Yet, if there’s something I am learning about my ongoing transition to the private sector, it is that I must be flexible about methods and become more creative about...
International Finance Corporation
Case Study—Trust motivates people’s uptake and use of digital financial services (DFS). Understanding the socio-cultural determinants of DFS trust are needed to scale financial access and drive financial inclusion. These are core components of international development strategies, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or Universal Financial Access (UFA2020). The IFC-Mastercard Foundation Partnership for Financial Inclusion (the Partnership) conducted ethnographic research to understand factors that impact people’s attitudes and perceptions of DFS. Nine months of field work each in Cameroon, DRC, Senegal and Zambia were conducted, in collaboration with local research institutes’ Anthropology departments and the African Studies Center at the University of Leiden. The results of the ethnographic research produced a framework for understanding drivers and barriers to people growing trust in digital financial services.
This paper analyzes the...
Seattle Children's Hospital
Seattle Children's Hospital
Case Study—Declining clinician engagement, increasing rates of burnout, and stagnant patient and family experience scores have led hospital leadership at Seattle Children's Hospital to submit requests to a data scientist and an anthropologist to identify key themes of survey comments and provide recommendations to improve experience and satisfaction. This study explored ways of understanding satisfaction as well as analytic approaches to textual data, and found that various modes of evidence, while seemingly ideal to leaders, are hard pressed to meet their expectations. Examining satisfaction survey comments via text mining, content analysis, and ethnographic investigation uncovered several specific challenges to stakeholder requests for actionable insights. Despite its hype, text mining struggled to identify actionable themes, accurate sentiment, or group distinctions that are readily identified by both content analysis and end users, while more...