Ethnographic Research: Methods And Examples
Ethnography is a research method used to learn about the lives of others. It helps us understand how and why…
October 7, 2021 | 7 mins read
Ethnography is a research method used to learn about the lives of others. It helps us understand how and why people behave differently in various societies or cultures.
Ethnographic research is the process of collecting data about a group of people. It’s a popular technique used by anthropologists, sociologists and others who study human behavior. It’s mainly thought of as a qualitative research method, which means it allows us to study subjects that don’t lend themselves to numerical data. But, it can be used to collect quantitative data as well.
To find out more about the meaning of ethnographic research, read on.
When we wish to understand a particular social phenomenon, ethnographic research can be a useful tool.
Ethnography is a great method to understand how cultures work and affect the people who belong to them. To do this properly requires detailed observations about what is going on in a particular society. Here are some defining features of this type of research:
Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is ethnographic research?”, let’s look at how it’s done.
As we’ve discovered, ethnographic research is a method often used to study another culture or group of people. It’s a powerful tool to understand the world better. It can be done through observation, active participation and even interviews with the people being studied.
In the field, anthropologists often take notes while observing their subjects. They also record conversations and keep a journal of what they see. Later, these findings get transcribed and analyzed for accuracy. In addition, multiple researchers can work to get a clear picture of a culture or community. All of this data can go into a book, article, or scientific report that describes the findings of the group’s research.
Let’s look at some specific research techniques used in an ethnographic study:
As the goal of ethnographic research is closely studying an individual (or group) in their natural environment, observation is the primary method used. Researchers can observe the same people or groups on a regular basis for several weeks or months at a time.
The researchers can interview two people within the same culture. They may be related to each other in some way or involved in different actions. This method is used to gather data in many types of research, including medical research.
The researcher joins a group of people being studied, either by living with them or by observing them for an extended period of time during the day. They record what they see. Participant observation is most often used in social science fields, including anthropology, social psychology and sociology.
Field notes come in two types: primary and secondary. In some types of research, such as participatory action research, field notes are the primary documents for analysis and interpretation. However, field notes are often secondary documents used to provide background information for analysis and interpretation.
While ethnography is a useful method of research, it isn’t suitable for all situations.
Some consider ethnographic research more art than science. Cultures and cultural phenomena aren’t easy to quantify, so they can be open to interpretation. That’s when the meaning of ethnographic research really comes into its own.
Quantitative researchers try to gather data objectively through numbers and statistics, while qualitative researchers use their observations to describe what they see taking place in a particular culture or society. Quantitative research tries to infer from past experiences to predict future events or results. Qualitative researchers aim to understand a culture or society by listening to what its members have to say about it.
Ethnographers can employ quantitative methods in their study. But, it’s the qualitative component that sets this method apart. The data can shed light on an issue. That’s why ethnographic methods can be so effective in getting to know groups of people, their cultures and social interactions. It tends to be used in anthropology, sociology and political science but has wider applications too.
Ethnographic research can be used to study issues big and small, cultural or business-related. Here are a few examples of its uses:
These are just a few examples of how ethnographic research can be used.
As with other research methods, there are challenges to ethnographic research. It’s important to consider these before choosing the right research method. Here are some points to keep in mind:
Just as there are drawbacks, there are clear advantages to using ethnographic research. Let’s recap these:
These are just a few of the strengths of ethnographic research, a widely used method in the social sciences. Ethnographic research can provide valuable insights into people and how they live. That’s important information to have for a professional on an upward trajectory.
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