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To find an ethnography, start with your own curiosity

You need to choose an ethnography.  You are looking for a book length,

first hand, extensive description (or picture) of the daily way of life or cultural practice of a particular group of people

insider's account of the culture based on the author’s interactions and participant observation / field work with the group that is the subject of the ethnography   

written by an anthropologist, possibly a sociologist, who has conducted their detailed study while being immersed in the particular culture, often living with the people, over a period of time, often years

Ethnographies may be focused on traditional or contemporary cultures and are usually published by academic publishers.

Are you interested in

  • the people of a particular country, continent or region of the world? e.g. Northern Ireland, Caribbean, Canada, China, Brazil, Africa
  • a particular group of people or society?   e.g.

the Zande (in Africa), Toraja (Indonesian People), Romanies (Gypsies), Masai, Inuit (older books use the term Eskimos),  Quechua Indians, Palestinian Arabs, Maya

college students, drug dealers, street children, surrogate mothers, teenage boys, ultra-Orthodox Jews, homeless persons, Muslim girls, nurses’ aides, bicycle messengers, policewomen, transgender people, criminals, soldiers, welfare recipients, middle class families, male prostitutes, young adults, gay fathers, teenage automobile drivers, soccer fans, wildfire fighters, women body builders

  • a specific custom, aspect or way of contemporary life  

ethnic identitites, drinking customs, male friendship, reindeer herding, sex role, drug use, traditional farming, soccer, witchcraft, recreational vehicle living, forced migration, initiation rites, gangs, alcohol use, spirit possession, parenting, khat, virtual reality, sex customs, open source software

Combine Library of Congress subject headings and subheadings

Search using LibrarySearch.
Use the Advanced search to more precisely retrieve relevant books/videos or use browse by subject (The Subject search will list all the subject headings using the term(s) you entered and the numbers of book/videos attached to each term.) 
Search for some combination of 
  1. the name of a people, a geographic region or a country and 
  2. a Library of Congress subject subdivision that is frequently, but not exclusively, used for ethnographies, e.g.         

          ethnology                                     social life and customs 

social conditions                           social aspects

alcohol use                                   economic conditions

death                                            ethnic relations

funeral customs and rites               family

kinship                                          religion

rites and ceremonies                      sexual behavior

medical care                                 sex role

Sample subject heading/subdivisions combinations:

Muslim women - Canada
Rites and ceremonies - India

Xhosa (African people) - Rites and ceremonies.                   
Batuan (Indonesia) - Religious life and customs.               
Goth culture (Subculture) - Great Britain

Internet - Social aspects

Hints :

   Use the  ? to say "I don't care what letters come after this", e.g.

relig? retrieves religion, religious, religiosity

   If your term is a phrase, change "any of these" to "as a phrase"


Find journal articles about cultural institutions in your culture

  • Use *  after the root of a word to say "I don't care how the word ends"
  • Use AND between ideas to search for BOTH terms
  • Use OR between terms if you don't care which term is used e.g. college OR university OR undergradute* OR campus
  • Limit your results to Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals if the database provides that option.
  • If appropriate, further limit you results by selecting the most relevant Subject: Thesaurus Terms (Click "Show more" to see them all

Search examples"

   nuer  (nuer african peoples) 

   muslim* AND (undergraduate* OR college* OR university OR campus) AND student*

   nuer and family and (religi* OR  politic* OR economic* OR  subsistence OR gender OR marriage*)

   ("motorcycle gang*" OR "biker gang*") and (social or cultur* or economic* or language or relig* or belief*)

Possible ethnographies in the MRU Library

The Excel file below is a list of what appeared to be ethnographies from the information about the book available at the time they were added to the list.  There may be some books on the list that are not suitable ethnographies for your assignment: if in doubt, check with your instructor.

The list is in alphabetical order by the first word in the subject heading, the fourth column, in red.  T

Since the word/s you want may not be the first word, here's a quick way to search words in all the columns:

  • Do a "control F search" for the word you want. 
    • Hold down the control key, hit the letter F key, and then
    • type a word or a phrase that expresses what you want your ethnography to be about (the name of a people, country, region or continent, subject, or a subject subdivision)  e.g. african people, mayas, gangs, rites and ceremonies) or
  • Skim through the list, looking particularly or only at the subjects column.  It lists words and phrases from the subject headings assigned to the book.

To quickly get more information about the books with titles in blue, click on the title to find a review in Choice, a reviewing source for academic librarians (but not a source appropriate for the book reviews required for your assignment).

When you find a book that looks interesting, copy the main title (the part of the title before the colon). Search the title of the book using LibrarySearch to find the call number of the book.  You'll need the call number/address of the book to locate it on the Library shelves.

You can link to a brief description of the book by following the "about this book" link in the catalogue or search the title of the book in Amazon.

Check the due date of any books that are "not available". If the book you want has been signed out, put a "hold" on a book or go back to the list below and try again.

So many possiblilties! What to choose?

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Joel Blechinger
Phone: 403.440.8624
Office: EL4423E