Writing Ethnographic Dissertation

Home school literacy: An ethnographic study of parents teaching reading and writing

Elizabeth Baurle Treat, University of Pennsylvania


This qualitative research on the acquisition of literacy within a home school setting is a case study of one home school family. The term home school literacy was devised to describe the phenomenon of home schooling as a unique process of literacy acquisition and development. Each home school is considered a specialized context for literacy growth, where family members interact as a distinct system of learners. This study explores how two parents teach reading and writing to their child during the last three months of her third-grade year by focusing on how they envision themselves as teachers of reading and writing, and how they enact this self-concept in their teaching.^ The oral and written language of family members provided the primary data to investigate and identify interactions involving literacy teaching. Data were collected through interviewing, audio-recording, video-recording, documents, writing samples, protocol analysis, questionnaires, home visitations, and field notes. The qualitative nature of these data collection procedures involved the researcher and family members relating as co-researchers throughout the study.^ Results suggest that collaborative learning is likely to happen in a home school setting as parents become actively engaged in designing their own literacy development program and become acquainted with their children's individual learning styles. They will probably create their curriculum according to both their own and their children's needs and interests.^ Oral reading was found to be an effective means of sharing prior knowledge and experience while teaching. Also, parents could be models as readers, writers, and learners while teaching in a home school setting. Holistic, natural learning is possible in such a context where the child is the center of teaching interactions and parents discover their ability to teach in both a formal and informal manner at the same time, without time constraints. Evaluation is ongoing and negotiable between parents and children. Such a learning environment nurtures self-inspired knowledge seeking in all home school family members. ^

Subject Area

Education, Language and Literature|Education, General|Education, Elementary|Education, Reading

Recommended Citation

Treat, Elizabeth Baurle, "Home school literacy: An ethnographic study of parents teaching reading and writing" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026662.


Since November 15, 2006


What to Write an Ethnographic Dissertation On

Your professor has asked you to write an Ethnographic Dissertation. You’re thinking, “What is that?” “What do I write that about?” “HOW do I write that?”

Let us begin by explaining what an ethnographic dissertation is. Ethnography is when you, the researcher, looks at society through the eyes of the subject of the study. That being said, when you are considering options for your subject, you need to also consider how the subject might view society because you will need to write all about that in your paper.

Here are some examples of good topics for an ethnographic dissertation

  • Hasidism in America: How things have changed for America’s Hasidic Jews
  • Black or White: How Quality of Life is Affected by Race
  • Indigenous: Keeping cultures alive in a Modern world
  • Moving out: The Effects of Relocating to the US from Other Countries
  • School Age: How Students View Their Own Education
  • Save Us: Discussing Disease in Third World Countries
  • Hinduism After 9/11
  • How Catholicism Changes Views on Society
  • Making It: Race and Religion in the Quest for Success

You can come up with many original ideas for this type of assignment just by thinking about society through the eyes of different religious groups, races, ages, and even body types. Conducting research for these topics may even lead you to discussing these issues with different people. This type of research can often lead to a better understanding of societal issues and the different ways that people view them.

When trying to come up with a good subject for your dissertation, it is recommended that you write down a few ideas (Brainstorming) and start researching them. Once you have gotten a bit of research on your chosen topics, you will have a better idea of the difficulty and sensitivity of the subject matter you have chosen. Some people may feel comfortable writing a dissertation on a very sensitive subject, others may not. Often, ethnographic dissertations will written on sensitive subject matter, leaving little room for mistakes. You must be careful to not offend anyone when writing this style of paper.

Try asking some friends or family what societal issues they are concerned with. Ask them to think deeper than just “politics”. You might want to look deeper at how today’s government affects new mothers, or how ObamaCare helps elderly patients. Remember, you should research your topic as if you are the subject; you are the elderly woman on ObamaCare, You are the young mother affected by a lack of maternity leave rights. Writing an ethnographic dissertation does not have to be difficult if you know what types of subject matter you should be using.

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