What is Ethnographic Research Analytical Essay

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When we speak about a qualitative research study, it’s easy to think there is one kind however, just as with quantitative approaches, there are actually many varieties of qualitative approaches.

A popular and helpful categorization separate qualitative methods into these groups namely ethnography, narrative, ethnomethodology, qualitative comparative analysis, phenomenological, grounded theory and case study.

The qualitative data analyst can choose from many interesting alternative approaches depending on the research question under investigation that shapes the selection of an analytic approach, but the researcher’s preferences and experiences also will inevitably have an important influence on the method chosen.

While these approaches generally use similar data collection techniques such as observation, interviews, and reviewing text, the analysis of these data differentiates them. And like classifying different usability studies, the differences between the approaches can be a bit blurry.
Hence to fully understand them, below is the discussion of these qualitative approaches in more detailed manner.


  • Ethnography came from the greek word ethnos which means folk or people and graphein which means writing.
  • Ethnography is the study of an intact cultural or social group based on observations, and a prolonged period of time spent by the researcher in the field. It is a social science research method that relies on up-close , personal experience and possible participation, not just observation, by researcher trained in the art of ethnography (Van Maanen 1995:4).

It involves the commitment to get close to the subject being observed in its natural setting, to be factual and descriptive in reporting what is observed, and to find out the points of view of participants in the domain observed.

Characteristics Of Ethnographic Research

  • Contextual – The research is carried out in the context in which the subjects normally live and work.
  • Unobtrusive – The researcher avoids manipulating the phenomena under investigation.
  • Longitudinal – The research is relatively long.
  • Collaborative – The research involves the participation of stakeholders other than the researcher.
  • Interpretative – the researcher carries out interpretative analysis of the data.
  • Organic – There is interaction between questions, hypothesis and data collection.

General Features Of An Ethnographic Research Approach

Society’s behaviour is observed in their natural setting and not under experimental settings.

Data are collected with the help of diverse sources like observations and informal conversations.

The approach to data collection is unstructured in the sense that it does not involve following through a detailed plan set up at the beginning; nor are the categories used for interpreting what people say and do pre-given or fixed.

The focus is usually a single setting or group, of relatively small scale.
The analysis of the data involves interpretation of the meanings and functions of human actions and mainly takes the form of verbal descriptions and explanations.

Methodological Principles


This is the view that the aim of social research is to capture the character of naturally occurring human behavior, and that this can only be achieved by first-hand contact with it, not by inferences from what people do in artificial settings like experiments


From this point of view, if we are to be able to explain human actions effectively we must gain an understanding of the cultural perspectives on which they are based.


Another feature of ethnographic thinking is a conception of the research process as inductive or discovery-based; rather than as being limited to the testing of explicit hypotheses.

There are no particular methodological techniques associated with ethnography, other than just “being there.” The analytic process relies on the thoroughness and insight of the researcher to “tell us like it is” in the setting, as he or she experienced it.

Steps in Conducting Ethnographic Research

Determine if ethnography is the most appropriate design to be used in studying the research problem.

What is traditionally studied? – Members of a culture-sharing group or individuals representing the group. Accessing a Field Setting appropriate for answering the researcher’s general question.

What are the typical access and rapport issues? – Gaining access through gatekeepers, gaining the confidence of the informants.

How does one select a site or individuals to study? – Finding a cultural group to which one is a stranger, a representative sample. Become invisible. The ability of the researcher to be present in the setting, to see what is going on without being observed, to capture the essence of the setting and participants without influencing them. Once in the field, wander around the location, take field notes, map the field.

What type of information is typically collected? – Participant observations, interviews, artifacts and document of a single culture-sharing group.

How is information recorded? – Field notes, interview and observational protocols.

What are common data collection issues? – Field issues such as reflexivity, reactivity, reciprocality, going native, divulging private information.

  • Analyze the ethnographic data
  • Inductive content analysis and ethnographic narrative accounts
  • Use typologies and sociograms to identify the degree of affinity that members of a group have toward one another.
  • Use a constant comparative method in which new data are constantly compared prior to interpretations.

Data Coding

Reflective and marginal remarks, pattern coding, memoing, periodic site analysis resulting to thematic notations, conceptual grouping based on clustering of observations, metaphors and triangulation of interpretations.

Three Aspects of Data Analysis


This is the foundation upon which qualitative research is built. Here, you become the storyteller, inviting the reader to see through your eyes what you have seen. Present the straightforward description of the setting and events.


This is the quantitative side of qualitative research. This involves highlighting specific material introduced in the descriptive phase or displaying findings through tables, charts, diagrams and figures. Analysis of data can also be done through building taxonomies, generating comparison tables or through searching for patterned regularities in the data.


The researcher goes beyond the database and probes “ what is to be made out of them?”. Here, the researcher draws inferences from the data or turns to theory to provide structure for his or her interpretations.

Forge a working set of rules or generalizations as to how the culture-sharing group works as the final product of this analysis.
Disengage physically and emotionally from the setting and the subjects.

Criteria For A Good Ethnography

  • The clear identification of a culture-sharing group
  • The specification of a cultural theme that will be examined in light of this culture-sharing group
  • A detailed description of the cultural group
  • Themes that derive from an understanding of the cultural group
  • The identification of issues that arose in the field that reflect on interpretive nature of reporting, and sensitivity and reciprocity in the co- creating of the account
  • An explanation overall of how the culture-sharing group wotksA self-disclosure and reflexivity by the researcher about her or his position in the research.

Code of the Street, Anderson’s (1999) award-winning study of Philadelphia’s inner city, captures the flavor of these criteria:
My primary aim in this work is to render ethnographically the social and cultural dynamics of the interpersonal violence that is currently undermining the quality of life of too many urban neighborhoods. . . . How do the people of the setting perceive their situation? What assumptions do they bring to their decision making? (pp. 10–11)

The methods of investigation were: participant observation, including direct observation and in-depth interviews, impressionistic materials drawn from various social settings around the city, and interviews with a wide variety of people. Like most traditional ethnographers, Anderson (1999) describes his concern with being “as objective as possible” and using his training as other ethnographers do, “to look for and to recognize underlying assumptions, their own and those of their subjects, and to try to override the former and uncover the latter” (p. 11).

From analysis of the data obtained in these ways, a rich description of life in the inner city emerges. Although we often do not “hear” the residents speak, we feel the community’s pain in Anderson’s (1999) description of “the aftermath of death”:

When a young life is cut down, almost everyone goes into mourning. The first thing that happens is that a crowd gathers about the site of the shooting or the incident. The police then arrive, drawing more of a crowd. Since such a death often occurs close to the victim’s house, his mother or his close relatives and friends may be on the scene of the killing. When they arrive, the women and girls often wail and moan, crying out their grief for all to hear, while the young men simply look on, in studied silence. . . . Soon the ambulance arrives. (p. 138)
Anderson (1999) uses this description as a foundation on which he develops the key concepts in his analysis, such as “code of the street”:

Advantages of the Approach

  1. Richer description of consumer behavior phenomena
  2. Better opportunity to generate original theoretical insights
  3. Greater openness to the insights of consumers
  4.  Certainty that the findings correspond to the consumption reality

Limitations of the Approach

  1.  Greater time is required for data collection
  2. The presence of a team of researchers is essential
  3. Time consuming data analysis
  4. Requires greater sensitivity


  • Anne Rawls provides a terminological breakdown for Ethnomethodology. The term was derived from the words ethno which means members of a social or cultural group, method which means methods and practices followed by that group and logos which means study.
  • Ethnomethodology is the study of ordinary members of society in the everyday situations in which they find themselves and the ways in which they use common sense knowledge , procedures, and considerations to gain an understanding of, navigate in, and act on those situations.
  • Harold Garfinkel coined the term which literally meant people’s method.

In 1954, he was preparing his research on juries and was interested in how the jurors knew what they were doing in doing the work of jurors. He was intrigued with “what makes up the social facts and the authenticity of the so-called social blocks of explanation of social life.

Two Notions of Ethnomethodology

  • Membership Categorization Analysis – this permits the researcher to create categorical distinctions in conversation analysis such as gender that can be broken to male and female categories.
  • Sequential Analysis – this permits the researcher to identify patterns of turn taking in conversations.

Cite this paper

What is Ethnographic Research Analytical Essay. (2020, Sep 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/what-is-ethnographic-research/



What are the main focuses of ethnographic research?
The main focuses of ethnographic research include studying the culture, behavior, and beliefs of a particular group or community, and understanding the social interactions and dynamics within that group. Ethnographers strive to gain an in-depth understanding of the perspectives and experiences of the people they are studying, often through participant observation and interviews.
What is ethnographic research and its examples?
Ethnographic research is a qualitative research method that uses field observations and interviews to study the customs and beliefs of a particular culture or group. An example of ethnographic research would be an anthropologist living with a tribe in order to study their way of life.
What is the meaning of ethnographic research?
Ethnographic research is a qualitative research method that uses field observations and interviews to study the cultures and lifestyles of a group of people. The aim of ethnographic research is to understand how people interact with each other and their environment.
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