Ethnographic Research


Ethnographic research: Overview
Ethnography studies cultures, subcultures through close observation and interpretation. In the process of ethnographic research, the phenomenon is being observed by direct involvement of the researcher, finding ways and methods to take part in people’s lives in order to be close to the cultural context. In this sense, ethnographic research has collaborative nature because the project would not be possible to realize without the targeted members of the culture by the researcher. Obtaining such consent is crucial. Announcing and explaining the purposes and intentions to everyone targeted for the research, interviews, or surveys will permit to have access to the members of the studied culture. The term ethnography is a complex of different research activities and perspectives. The ethnographic researcher may use many approaches to explore a social group or a cultural tradition; the aim is to conduct the research in the ‘natural context’.

One of the most common things for ethnographic research is the flexibility of research process and non formal way of doing it. The use of various methods of research, including informal ones (i.e. informal interviews) are implacable. Describing Ethnographic methodology A. Gottlieb (2005) mentioned three fundamental and interrelated presuppositions: a) Data are not just gathered like grapes or a vine but also created by human effort b) Scholars who produce the data are complex creatures whose perception and communications are shaped at every turn by the context in which they find themselves and the level of comfort or discomfort they experience in that context. c) Both the quality and the content of the data that researcher gathers have as much to do with the researcher as they do with the informants or research participants. Ethnographic research gives all the opportunities to understand socio-cultural practices deeply and from the viewpoint of people who experience it. Ethnography vs Case Study, Conventional Researches

The course was an excellent opportunity to understand the differences between ethnographic research and case study more clearly, as in general they can be mixed. To define the differences I will refer to the lecture that we had:
* Ethnographic research is more connected with observation of culture, while case study is a quick, direct description of any socio-economic phenomenon. * The difference between a conventional researcher and an ethnographer is that, ethnographer is very keen on interpreting the cultural aspects very deeply. Moreover, case studies usually don’t need long time, and it is possible to conduct in short period. While in the case of ethnographic researches the researcher has to be involved, understand, practice the cultural context which is not possible to do in a short period of time. Case study data collection is often more structured, using key informant interviews, structured observations of events and interactions and the collection and content analysis of relevant documents.


The ethnographic research enables setting the meanings hidden behind the social and organizational nature of modern societies. The ethnographic method is indispensable in studying unique situations. It can be an effective tool for the study of groups, organizations and subcultures, making available those aspects of life that cannot be studied using quantitative methodology. The distinctive features of ethnographic research are: researcher is directly involved in the pilot process and life of surveyed people or groups of society, the use of informal methods, such as informal interviews and informal conversations (chat), presence. It is also an excellent methodology to understand more deeply the essence of migrants, their practices or any other migration related issue in the case there is enough time to get involved in their cultural context.

1. Van Willingen; John : Applied Anthropology; 3rd edition.. 2003 2. Gottlieb, Alma (2005), “Ethnography: theory and methods”, in Perecman, Ellen and Sara R. Curran eds., A Handbook for Social Science Field Research: essays & bibliographic sources on research designs and methods, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage: 47‐68. 3. Fahimur Quadir, Ethnographic Research, Handout-Classnotes; 2013

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