OUS folknography class to study Ironton

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 25, 2004

Dr. David Lucas' class at Ohio University Southern is ready to amplify the voices of the people of Ironton.

Lucas and 16 students are preparing to conduct a folknography research project in the city May 10-14. Lucas outlined the plan to the Ironton City Council Thursday and received unanimous support.

Folknography is a qualitative research method developed by Lucas and Dr. Charles Jarrett, also an instructor at OUS, that is used to record attitudes and perceptions of communities and groups.

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"In the course of our lives, most of us come to a time of personal reflection. We take inventory of who we are and we measure our assets, abilities and skills. We look back at our past in order to plan for the future," Lucas said. "… I believe that in order for Ironton to proceed into the future, the city must review (its) resources, responsibilities and reactions of (its) citizens."

Using a random sample, the students will conduct a series of interviews with willing participants over the age of 15, hand out short surveys and conduct several focus groups. A sample question is, "If you were on council or were the mayor, what would be the first thing you would do?"

The students will cap off the study with a town meeting in May to present the results in narrative and statistical format.

"Tonight, I am asking only for your support," Lucas said of the study that will not cost the city any money. "A team of qualified and trained student researchers will move through the community, record the data and then deliver you a summary report. We ask only that at the conclusion you consider carefully the voices of the community of Ironton."

Mayor John Elam said he is very excited about the study.

"The thing I like about folknography is that the approach has not been utilized before," Elam said. "Normally, studies are done from the outside looking in. Folknography will provide a perspective from the inside looking out."

All the data can be used in conjunction with other information to help focus the city's efforts, the mayor said.

"It may be a tool we can use that will provide direction that has been lacking," Elam said. "Short-term goals will be defined that will help achieve long-term objectives. The citizens of Ironton will have a voice."

Folknography studies are nothing new to Lucas and his students. They visited Richwood, W.Va., in Nicholas County earlier this year for a research project that looked at the perception of math and math education in rural parts of the country. Last May, a group visited General Turan, Mexico, to do a study to help promote economic development.