The Importance of Analytical Sensibilities to Observation in Ethnography

Ethnography is a multi-method approach in qualitative research with observation at its core.  Prolonged onsite observations in the participants’ natural material world are what make ethnography a unique and important research approach.  Needless to say, the ASobserver plays a central role in the success of an ethnographic study and there are few more important skills for the observer than those associated with the concept of analytical sensibility.  It is the observer’s skills in sensibilities that can compensate for weaknesses in other aspects of the study design, such as the unavoidable pairing of an older male observer with a group of school-age girls.  The observer’s analytical sensibilities include the capacity to be aware of and to reflect on his or her surroundings, the actions of the participants, and how the observer may be influencing the outcomes from the observation.  This sensibility is analytical in nature because the focus is on the observer’s ability to apply analytical skills while in the field that deepen the researcher’s understanding of the culture and events from the participants’ point of view.

The facet of sensibility that is imperative among all ethnographic observers is, what Stacey and Eckert called, “dual perspective” or the ability to derive meaning from participants’  Read Full Text