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William G. Axinn photo

The Microdemographic Community-Study Approach: Improving Survey Data by Integrating the Ethnographic Method

Publication Abstract

Axinn, William G., Tom E. Fricke, and Arland Thornton. 1991. "The Microdemographic Community-Study Approach: Improving Survey Data by Integrating the Ethnographic Method." Sociological Methods and Research, 20(2): 187-217.

Survey methods have been criticized for producing unreliable, invalid data and for failing to provide contextual information to test complex causal hypotheses. We discuss a technique that combines survey and ethnographic methods at every stage of the data collection process to overcome these shortcomings. We use ethnographic and survey evidence to show how the combined approach reduces coverage errors, nonresponse errors and measurement errors arising from the interviewer, the questionnaire, and the respondent. Complete integration of the two methods during data collection can uncover information that a survey alone would have missed. Ethnographic data can also be used to understand the meaning behind relationships among survey variables that would have otherwise been unclear. Finally, although the combined approach is intensive, it is flexible enough to be used in a variety of settings to study many different research questions.

DOI:10.1177/0049124191020002001 (Full Text)

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