16:52 02/10/2010

How to carry out freelisting analysis with Anthropac: a tutorial

What is Freelisting and cultural domain analysis?

Cultural domain analysis aims to understand how a culture, or a particular group of people, perceives items belonging to the same cultural domain (Bernard, 2005).

Freelisting is a useful tool to define the items of a cultural domain and to guide further research. Freelisting consists of asking a group of informants to cite all the items of a selected cultural domain they can recall. For example, Freelisting of medicinal plants can be conducted in order to define the most salient medicinal species used in an area. In this case the researcher would ask to respondents: “Can you tell me all the medicinal plants you know?” .

This method is based on the assumption that the informants list what they perceive as the most salient items. One piece of evidence supporting this assumption is that when people recall items belonging to a cultural domain, they tend to recall more easily items that are commonly experienced in daily life rather than items that are scarcely encountered (Romney and D'Andrade, 1964; Gatewood, 1983).

A step-by-step tutorial on freelisting analysis on ANTHROPAC

The data collected with freelisting is often analysed with the computer software ANTHROPAC (Borgatti, 1996).

Below I describe the steps to carry out freelisting data with ANTHROPAC in a very schematic way. I originally wrote this short tutorial to help a friend that had hard time with ANTHROPAC. The tutorial is by no means exaustive but I hope it can help people that are not familiar with ANTHROPAC.

FIGURE1: example of input file with freelisting data, Download


Bernard HR. 2005. Research methods in anthropology. Altamira Press, Walnut Creek, CA.

Borgatti S. 1996. ANTHROPAC 4.0. Analytic Technologies, Natick, MA.

Gatewood JB. 1983. Loose talk: linguistic competence and recognition ability. American Anthropologist 85(2):378-387.

Romney AK, D'Andrade R. 1964. Cognitive aspects of English kin terms. American Anthropologist 66(3):146-170.