The Promise and Process of Ethnography: What We Have Learned Studying Gang Members and CPS Kids

  • Gabriel T Cesar
  • Scott H. Decker


Researchers in the social sciences face conflicting pressures to produce work that is both impactful to their field of study and feasible within time and resource constraints. These pressures are particularly acute for junior academics, but they extend throughout the career of professional researchers. Ethnography is an approach to research that cannot only afford many benefits in this regard but also challenges. While ethnography offers a “ground-up” approach that makes innovation more readily available, the commitments required by such an approach are substantial. In this chapter, we detail our individual pathways into fieldwork and qualitative analysis. We then outline some of the lessons we have learned and questions that have emerged after years of ethnographic research with kids in gangs and child protective services. In short, ethnography can make your career awesome but only if you are willing and able to stomach some risks, commit yourself fully, and navigate emerging problems.


Graduate school Fieldwork Community engagement Career development Academic mentorship 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriel T Cesar
    • 1
  • Scott H. Decker
    • 2
  1. 1.Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca RatonUSA
  2. 2.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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