A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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Enhance your ability to observe and make reliable judgments about communities

Ethnography involves studying a specific culture or community. By living among the members of a culture and playing the role of participant-observer, ethnographers attempt to define the beliefs, rituals, symbols, problems, and patterns of behavior that distinguish this culture from other dominant cultures. For example, ethnographers have attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and written about the culture of alcoholics. Ethnographers have studied the community of prostitutes and drug dealers on inner-city streets and in housing projects. Researchers have used ethnographic techniques to study classrooms in colleges, high schools, and middle schools.

Understanding People is the Purpose

The purpose of ethnography is not to generalize from a smaller population to a larger one. Instead, ethnographers are conducted to better understand specific groups and how those people are influenced by their environment. While ethnographers typically interview key informants in the culture, their emphasis in writing an ethnography is not to tell discrete life stories. Instead, ethnographers use their observations, conclusions from informal and formal interviews, results of psychological tests, and interpretations of insider-written documents to weave together an account of key people in the community and to explicate the community's values, ceremonies, problems, and prospects.

Ethnography in the Classroom

In a variety of college classes, your instructors may challenge you to play the exciting role of an ethnographer. For example, in a sociology class you may be asked to observe and analyze behavior in a college dormitory. For an education class you may need to analyze how different sociological backgrounds or teaching techniques affect learning. Instructors in business management or communication classes might ask you to study the interpersonal factors that influence how decisions are made or how different people respond to certain leadership and management styles. 


Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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