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Ethnography seeks to understand social phenomena and cultural practices from an ‘insider’ perspective through observation, note-taking, conversations, interviews, and participation.

It typically involves a period of immersion (fieldwork) within a community or place and seeks to bring researchers into lived spaces through the fieldwork process. Ethnography has a long tradition within the social sciences, humanities and the arts, and ethnographic methods remain prominent within fields such as anthropology, sociology, and geography.

Historically, ethnographic methods were utilised by social anthropologists who sought to understand ‘foreign’ cultural practices. There is now a considerable critical literature exploring traditional ethnography as a colonial and racializing practice. Ethnographic methods are often combined with other research methods such as interviews, diary methods, life-story methods and surveys, however, are distinguished from these methods through their use of observation.

Current research projects using ethnographic methods include Identity, Belonging and the Rose of the Media in Brexit Britain, Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and knowledge in East German Society and Polluted Leisure.


Spotlight Interview

To gain a better understanding of how this method is used in practice you can read interviews with researchers below:


Agata Jalosinska - PhD Student, Open Lab

Dr Kate Gibson - Research Associate, Population Health Sciences Institute

Dr Robin Finlay - Research Associate, School of Geography, Politics and Sociology



Relevant Courses

FRE2013 : Ethnography for Language Learners (French)

MCH3085 : Digital Discourses and Identity 

MCH8058 : Methodologies: Researching Media, Culture & Society

SOC1027 : Comparing Cultures

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences