Tutorial: Selection Process for eHRAF Cultures
by Christiane Cunnar,
Human Relations Area Files
(HRAF) at Yale University
How does a culture makes its way into eHRAF?
I am often asked this question and thus find it worthwhile to discuss it a bit further. As I mentioned before, eHRAF is annually growing. Each year approximately 40,000 pages of text are added—about 16,000 pages are new (this is about the limit that HRAF’s analysts can index in one year) and about 24,000 are converted to electronic format from microfiche. It takes about two years to process new files. Membership dues primarily fund future eHRAF production; if the membership increases HRAF may be able to increase the number of pages processed per year.
Selection Process for eHRAF Cultures-- random and opportunistic
HRAF gives the highest priority to building a representative sample of societies in eHRAF to facilitate comparative or cross-cultural research. The 60-culture Probability Sample Files (PSF) were processed in the first 6 installments of eHRAF. The PSF sample was originally constructed in the 1960s by drawing up a list of well-described cases that met certain “data quality” criteria (e.g., at least one ethnographer who knew the native language and who stayed more than one year) around the world. From this list, one case was randomly chosen from each of 60 culture areas. When the PSF was completed, HRAF began to add additional cultures by simple random sampling from a list of world cultures. Random selection means that results of comparisons are generally applicable to the larger universe of cases from which the sample was drawn. Some cases that are randomly selected are already in the HRAF Collection of Ethnography on microfiche and these are updated and converted to electronic form. Other randomly selected cases are completely new. Because we have a limit on how many new pages we can include each year, we often need to supplement the random selection with non-random choices, usually from the microfiche collection. HRAF is also trying to update and convert one or two immigrant cultures a year. Periodically we add cultures in the news (the cultures in the former Yugoslavia; the cultures in Afghanistan). Whenever possible, experts are consulted to help identify new material that should be added. (Occasionally, the consultants suggest that some sources should be deleted.) Some cultures have been studied extensively and those files will be much larger than the files on cultures that have not been extensively studied. Because of this variation, the number of cultures added each year usually varies between 10-20 cultures. In all cases, we cannot include everything written on a culture. We try to give a comprehensive picture of the culture over time, focusing on well-studied regions or communities. As of the year 2002, the entire eHRAF Collection.of Ethnography contains nearly 300,000
indexed pages of full-text information on all aspects of social and cultural life.
Note that Browse Cultures list includes only the cultures in eHRAF.Your library may also have the HRAF Collection of Ethnography on microfiche, which is currently much larger than eHRAF. If Go to
for the Complete Collection list to see which cultures are in microfiche and on the Web.