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Ekstrom Library

Anthropology: Finding Ethnographies

Finding Ethnographies

The following information is from Jennifer Bowers, the liaison librarian to Anthropology at the University of Denver, who has given me permission to share this very helpful content.

"Finding ethnographies in the library catalog isn't always straightforward or easy. First of all, there isn't a specific Library of Congress subject heading (LCSH) just for ethnographies. The most common subject heading subheading assigned to ethnographies is "social life and customs" but "case studies"  and "ethnology" are other subheadings that may be applied.

Since ethnographic books about a particular cultural group, region of the world, or subject area are grouped with other books about that region, country, or subject area, you won't be able to find all ethnographies shelved in one place in the library. Given all of these factors, here are some tips for using the library catalog to identify ethnographies:

  1. Identify the correct name of the group you are researching. For example, the subject heading for American Indians is "Indians of North America," and "Navajo Indians" is the correct LCSH, not Navajos or Navajo People.

  2. Once you have the correct name of the group or subject,  search with that name and the subheading phrase "social life and customs". For example, search:
    • navajo indians social life and customs 
    • either as an exact subject heading search, or as a keyword search.
  3. Try searching the name of the group or subject in combination with the subheading "case studies." Although not all case studies are ethnographies, some of the titles retrieved from this search might be ethnographies.  You will need to look at the books to determine if they are actually ethnographies.

  4. Search with the group name or subject and the subheading "ethnology." Again, you will need to look at the books to determine if they are ethnographies. 

  5. Search by keywords with your group name or subject and add the truncated term "ethnograph*" (e.g., "hispanic americans" and ethnograph*). This search will only retrieve those titles that have ethnography in the title (not all do) or somewhere else within the record.

  6. Try a keyword search that combines the name of the group and the aspect of the culture that you want to research. You will need to look at the books to determine if they are ethnographies.

  7. Search in the library catalog by a series title, such as Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology or Contemporary Ethnography, and then review the books to determine if a specific title is an ethnography. Potential series are listed in the box to the left.

  8. Identify an anthropologist and then search by his or her name as an author in the catalog to determine if he or she has published an ethnography based on their fieldwork.  You can use biographical sources such as the Biographical Dictionary of Social and Cultural Anthropology or the International Dictionary of Anthropologists to find potential authors.

Thanks to Liz Cooper, Janet Steins, Anne Davis, and other ACRL ANSS members for their suggestions."