Ethnographic Research – Important Methods & Examples

Ethnographic research
Ethnographic research
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A research technique used to understand other people’s lives is ethnography. It helps understand the divergence in human behaviour across different cultures and societies. Ethnographic research is a qualitative research technique that aims to comprehend the sociocultural dynamics of a specific population and enhance the understanding of people belonging to various cultures. Ethnographic research is one of the most important qualitative research techniques and aids in understanding the diversity of human experience. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of ethnographic research.

What is Ethnographic research?

Ethnographic research pertains to those studies that aim to conduct research on a group of people from a specific culture by comprehending their experiences while observing them in their natural habitats. It aims to observe and decipher the various norms, values, practices, and beliefs of a certain group of people. Essentially ethnography aims to understand why people do what they do and how they perceive the world around them. In contrast to quantitative studies, ethnographic research does not deal with numbers and statistics but instead seeks to gather qualitative data. Researchers gather data by residing among a group of people for a specified period of time and aim to comprehend their lives.

This kind of comprehensive research involves engaging with the people of a specific community for a specified period of time. Researchers gather data from keen observations and make notes which accurately depict the perceptions, attitudes and belief systems of a culture under investigation. Ethnographic research is often referred to as descriptive research since it aims to describe a particular community’s lifestyle, belief systems, norms, and practices. However, it is also interpretative since the researcher aims to account for the differences and reflect upon the observed data. Ethnography is a popular research method in social sciences and anthropology. The revisionist approaches in ethnography have changed the previously held misconceptions about certain people. Consequently, it has led to an enhanced understanding of people belonging to various cultures and societies.  

What are the aims and objectives of ethnographic research?

Ethnographic research aims to understand the culture and experiences of people. The researcher chooses a specific community or cultural group as their study topic and resides with them for a certain period of time. The researcher then observes the people in their natural habitat and the socio-cultural dynamics to gain deep insights into those particular people’s belief systems and values. Ethnographic research can often take years to complete since you cannot understand a culture in a few days. Therefore, it is a time taking research endeavour and requires ample resources to complete.

The fundamental benefit of ethnography is that it allows the researcher to observe a group’s traditions and practices through firsthand experiences. Ethnography aims to eliminate misconceptions and stereotypes about a certain group of people. It helps to bridge the differences and provide a humane account of people belonging to different cultures. Ethnographic research is useful for accounting for the differences and for generating a shared understanding that differences deserve respect and tolerance. It promotes multiculturalism and diversity.

What are the various research methods used in ethnographic research?

Study design and the choice of research methods depend entirely upon the aims and objectives of the research study. It is imperative to be clear about the study goals and choose the research methods accordingly. Designing an appropriate study design is a difficult task which requires ample philosophical and conceptual understanding of underpinning theoretical knowledge; therefore, if you cannot do it on your own you can always reach out to experts to get the best dissertation proposal help.


Naturalism is a method for doing ethnographic research in which the subject of the study is observed in their natural setting to spot and document cultural and traditional dynamics. It can require spending time documenting behaviours while residing in the natural surroundings of the culture under investigation. Naturalism is one of the most commonly used research techniques in ethnographic research, which has the potential to foster some relationship between the ethnographer and the study participants. In order to provide the most unbiased research results when employing this method, the researcher needs to keep a check on his or her biases and not judge people from preconceived notions or stereotypes. It requires an objective description of the people and their practices and not approaching them based on pre-existing frameworks.

Naturalism entails direct and indirect observations. Direct observations pertain to such observations in which the participants know they are being observed. However, researchers object to this technique on the ground that if the participants are conscious that someone is observing them, they might alter their behaviour, and it might not lead to objective results. In contrast to direct observations, indirect observations entail observing people without letting them know. Both direct and indirect methods in naturalism have their strengths and weaknesses, but it is the most effective method used in ethnographic research.

Participant Observation

Participant observation is an ethnographic research method which entails increased participation and interaction of the researcher with the study participants. The researcher takes an active role in the study, unlike naturalism, in which the researcher takes a back seat and only observes the concerned people. Participant observation is highly valued among ethnographers since it allows the researcher access to information which is privy to the group of people only. However, it requires appropriate strategies to create a friendly environment where the participants can discuss anything comfortably.


The interview technique is the most effective research method used in ethnographic research. It helps the researcher gather in-depth information about a group of people by having one-on-one conversations with the group members and leads to deep insights into the cultural outlook of the chosen study sample. The researcher asks questions and engages with the group members to strike up a conversation and document their perceptions and thought processes.

The researcher collects pertinent information about the attitudes and behaviours of the research members of the group during this situational investigation. It helps researchers ask questions that provide more details about the research participants. However, it is imperative to avoid using leading questions or loaded questions because it leads to biased results. Formulating interview questions that aim to comprehend a group of people in their natural habitat is not easy, and it requires critical thinking and deliberation. Therefore, if you encounter difficulties devising appropriate interview questions for ethnographic research, you can always take help from expert writers at Dissertation Writers UK.


Ethnographic research is a qualitative research technique that aims to enhance the understanding of human experience by exploring various cultures in their natural settings. It aspires to provide an objective account of the socio-cultural dynamics of various cultures by using naturalism, participant observation and interview techniques.

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