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Ethnographic Research. By Michael Kotutwa Johnson Submitted November 9 th , 2006 AED 615 Professor Franklin. Overview. What is Ethnographic Research? Applied Topics and Examples Sampling and Data Collection Advantages and Disadvantages Sample of an Ethnographic Study References.

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ethnographic research

Ethnographic Research


Michael Kotutwa Johnson


November 9th, 2006

AED 615

Professor Franklin

  • What is Ethnographic Research?
  • Applied Topics and Examples
  • Sampling and Data Collection
  • Advantages and Disadvantages
  • Sample of an Ethnographic Study
  • References
ethnographic research is
Ethnographic Research is…

“An attempt to attain as holistic a picture as possible of a particular society, group, institution, or situation. The emphasis in ethnographic research is on documenting or portraying the everyday experiences of individuals by observing and interviewing them and relevant others.”(Frankel & Wallen, 2006)

what is incorporated into the ethnographic process three step process
What is Incorporated into the Ethnographic Process…Three Step Process
  • Provides a detailed description of culture-sharing group being studied.
  • An analysis of the group in terms of perceived themes or perspectives.
  • Interpretation of the group by the researcher as to the meanings or generalizations about the social life of human beings in general.
applied topics and examples
Applied Topics and Examples
  • Those that by their nature defy simply quantification (for example, the interaction of students and teachers in classroom discussions).
  • Those that involve the study of individual or group activities over time (such as changes that occur in the attitudes of at-risk students as they participate in a specially designed, year long, reading program).
  • Those involving the study of formal organizations in their totality (for example, schools, school districts, and so forth.)
  • Those that can best be understood in a natural (as opposed to opposite) setting (for example, the behavior of students at a school event.)
  • De Facto Sample
  • Sample Size Typically Small
  • No Generalization of Results
  • Replication of Findings can Best be Determined by Replication of Their Work in other Settings or Situations by other Researchers.
ethnographic data collection
Ethnographic Data Collection

1. Participant Observation

a. Field Notes

b. Field Jottings

c. Reflective Field Notes

2. Interviewing

a. Structured

b. Semistructured

c. Informal

d. Retrospective

  • Richer Comprehensive Prospective.
  • Lends Itself Well to Research Topics that are not Easily Quantified.
  • Particularly Appropriate to Behaviors that are Best Understood by Observing Them within their Natural Settings.
  • Especially Suited to Studying Group Behavior over Time.
  • Highly Dependent on the Particular Researcher’s Observations and Interpretations.
  • No Numerical Data Provided Leads to Checking of Validity of the Researcher’s Conclusions.
  • Single Situations Usually Observed Leads to Non-Generalizable Results.
  • Inevitable Ambiguity that Accompanies this method, Preplanning and Review by Others are much less Useful than in Quantitative Studies.
  • Variables and Relationships are hard to Define due to Research Usually beginning without and Hypothesis.
sample of an ethnographic study
Sample of an Ethnographic Study

“The permeable institution: An ethnographic study of three acute psychiatric wards in London”


Alan Quirk, Paul Lelliott and Clive Seale

Published in 2006

what is the study about
What is the Study About?

This paper examines the issue of permeability to the outside world from within a modern psychiatric world. It involves interviews with patients, patient advocates and staff on 3 psychiatric wards.


Ellen, R.F. (1984) Ethnographic research: A guide to general conduct. London:

Academic Press Inc.

Fraenkal, J.R. & Wallen, N.E. (2006). How to design and evaluate research and education. New York: McGraw Hill.

Genzuk, M. (1999). A synthesis of ethnographic research. Retrieved October 29, 2006, from

LeCompte, M.D., & Goetz, J.P. (1982). Problems of reliability and validity in ethnographic research. Review of Education Research, 52(1), 31-60.

Quirk, A., Lelliot, P., & Seale, C. (2006). The permeable institution: An ethnographic study of three acute psychiatric wards in London. Social Sciences & Medicine, (63), 2105-2117.

Werner, O., & Schoepfle, G.M. (1987) Systematic fieldwork: Ethnographic analysis and data management. Newbury Park: SAGE Publications.