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What is the difference between emic and etic?

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Quick Answer

Emic and etic are two different ways to research human beings. In the emic approach, the research participants' words and perspectives are the starting point, and it is an insider, or bottom-up, approach. In the etic method theories, concepts and ideas are studied, and it is an outsider, or top-down, approach.

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The emic method is used to research topics that don't have too much theory attached to them. Researchers disregard theories and concepts and focus on the actual data from participants and pay attention to the themes or patterns that appear. It is impossible for researchers to be completely emic, because they all have preconceived perspectives and ideas.

In the etic methodology, comparison between contexts and populations is possible, and it aids in the development of cross-cultural concepts. Researchers focus on an existing theory and try to apply it to a new setting or population to see if the theory fits. Relying heavily on the etic approach means discarding new or cutting-edge concepts.

Emic and etic are also used as codes to label texts that contain themes and patterns. If the text is developed from data or participants' words, it is called emic code. If it is developed from research or literature, it is called etic code.

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