At the end of the nineteenth century, a rising interest
in Native American customs and an increasing desire to
understand Native American culture prompted ethnolo-
gists to begin recording the life stories of Native Amer-
(5) ican. Ethnologists had a distinct reason for wanting to
hear the stories: they were after linguistic or anthropo-
logical data that would supplement their own field
observations, and they believed that the personal
stories, even of a single individual, could increase their
(10) understanding of the cultures that they had been
observing from without. In addition many ethnologists
at the turn of the century believed that Native Amer-
ican manners and customs were rapidly disappearing,
and that it was important to preserve for posterity as
(15) much information as could be adequately recorded
before the cultures disappeared forever.
There were, however, arguments against this method
as a way of acquiring accurate and complete informa-
tion. Franz Boas, for example, described autobiogra-
(20) phies as being “of limited value, and useful chiefly for
the study of the perversion of truth by memory,” while
Paul Radin contended that investigators rarely spent
enough time with the tribes they were observing, and
inevitably derived results too tinged by the investi-
(25) gator’s own emotional tone to be reliable.
Even more importantly, as these life stories moved
from the traditional oral mode to recorded written
form, much was inevitably lost. Editors often decided
what elements were significant to the field research on a
(30) given tribe. Native Americans recognized that the
essence of their lives could not be communicated in
English and that events that they thought significant
were often deemed unimportant by their interviewers.
Indeed, the very act of telling their stories could force
(35) Native American narrators to distort their cultures, as
taboos had to be broken to speak the names of dead
relatives crucial to their family stories.
Despite all of this, autobiography remains a useful
tool for ethnological research: such personal reminis-
(40) cences and impressions, incomplete as they may be, are
likely to throw more light on the working of the mind
and emotions than any amount of speculation from an
ethnologist or ethnological theorist from another
1. Which of the following best describes the organization
of the passage?
(A) The historical backgrounds of two currently used
research methods are chronicled.
(B) The validity of the data collected by using two
different research methods is compared.
(C) The usefulness of a research method is questioned
and then a new method is proposed.
(D) The use of a research method is described and the
limitations of the results obtained are discussed.
(E) A research method is evaluated and the changes
necessary for its adaptation to other subject areas are
2. Which of the following is most similar to the actions of
nineteenth-century ethnologists in their editing of the
life stories of Native Americans?
(A) A witness in a jury trial invokes the Fifth
Amendment in order to avoid relating personally
(B) A stockbroker refuses to divulge the source of her
information on the possible future increase in a
(C) A sports announcer describes the action in a team
sport with which he is unfamiliar.
(D) A chef purposely excludes the special ingredient
from the recipe of his prizewinning dessert.
(E) A politician fails to mention in a campaign speech
the similarities in the positions held by her opponent
for political office and by herself.
3. According to the passage, collecting life stories can be a
useful methodology because
(A) life stories provide deeper insights into a culture
than the hypothesizing of academics who are not
members of that culture
(B) life stories can be collected easily and they are not
subject to invalid interpretations
(C) ethnologists have a limited number of research
methods from which to choose
(D) life stories make it easy to distinguish between the
important and unimportant features of a culture
(E) the collection of life stories does not require a
culturally knowledgeable investigator
4. Information in the passage suggests that which of
the following may be a possible way to eliminate
bias in the editing of life stories?
(A) Basing all inferences made about the culture
on an ethnological theory
(B) Eliminating all of the emotion-laden information
reported by the informant
(C) Translating the informant’s words into the
(D) Reducing the number of questions and carefully
specifying the content of the questions that the
investigator can ask the informant
(E) Reporting all of the information that the informant
provides regardless of the investigator’s personal
opinion about its intrinsic value
5. The primary purpose of the passage as a whole is to
(A) question an explanation
(B) correct a misconception
(C) critique a methodology
(D) discredit an idea
(E) clarify an ambiguity
6. It can be inferred from the passage that a characteristic
of the ethnological research on Native Americans
conducted during the nineteenth century was the use
of which of the following?
(A) Investigators familiar with the culture under study
(B) A language other than the informant’s for recording
(C) Life stories as the ethnologist’s primary source of
(D) Complete transcriptions of informants’ descriptions
of tribal beliefs
(E) Stringent guidelines for the preservation of cultural
7. The passage mentions which of the following as a factor
that can affect the accuracy of ethnologists’
transcriptions of life stories?
(A) The informants’ social standing within the culture
(B) The inclusiveness of the theory that provided the
basis for the research
(C) The length of time the researchers spent in the
culture under study
(D) The number of life stories collected by the
(E) The verifiability of the information provided by the
8. It can be inferred from the passage that the author would
be most likely to agree with which of the following
statements about the usefulness of life stories as a source
of ethnographic information?
(A) They can be a source of information about how
people in a culture view the world.
(B) They are most useful as a source of linguistic
(C) They require editing and interpretation before they
can be useful.
(D) They are most useful as a source of information
(E) They provide incidental information rather than
significant insights into a way of life.