What is studying ethnography? Subject and methods of research

Researchers use different methods to answer questions. Quantitative approaches cannot answer some of them. Such questions are best addressed with the help of qualitative research methods, such as ethnography. What is this science studying and what is its significance?

ethnography meaning

Difficult questions

Why do some cultures expect their daughters to marry before the age of 15? How does a person’s specific family values ​​influence how he communicates publicly with friends? What are the causes of bullying in all male classes? These are complex questions that cannot be answered with a simple passage or another method of quantitative research. These and similar questions are best answered using qualitative research methods of collecting, analyzing and interpreting the observed information.

More specifically, these problems are best addressed through ethnography. This is a science, a type of high-quality research project aimed at studying cultures and groups from a unique point of view - the subject.The word literally means "write about groups of people." Ethnographies are holistic in nature and include the history of the culture being studied, their routine and practice, as well as a discussion of their environment.

what studies ethnography

What is studying ethnography?

There are several defining qualities that are unique to ethnography:

  • Ethnographic research is the observation of a group of people or a culture in the field or, in other words, in a natural setting.
  • The researcher draws attention to the context, artifacts and environment of objects in addition to their interactions with each other.
  • Observations are the primary form of data collection, but interviews are often used to clarify a researcher’s observations.
  • Ethnography - long-term research. This allows the researcher to fix the regular patterns and approaches of the studied community, as well as to see how it reacts to new or different situations.
  • The researcher also plays the role of a student. In most of these projects, the researcher is an expert. Nevertheless, in ethnography, this subject assumes a role where he or she knows very little and is in a research environment to learn.
what is ethnography definition

Where is ethnography used?

Ethnography is a science that can be used with:

  • searching for the meaning of cultural norms and attitudes;
  • learning or trying to find reasons for using certain behaviors or practices;
  • consideration of social trends and incidents, such as divorce and illness;
  • the study of social interaction;
  • trying to understand the roles of families, relationships, and organizations.
subject of ethnography

Ethnographic procedure

So, where to start? The preliminary stage is to identify the issue or problem to be solved. Then you need to formulate additional questions that will indicate what you observe and how you collect the data. As soon as your main questions are ready, the data collection process will begin. First, you must gain access to the population being studied. When conducting ethnographic studies, you will receive two types of access: open and closed.

It is also important for the researcher to observe and observe the environment in which the population spends the most time to note any changes during the year. Data collection and analysis takes place simultaneously with ethnography, the value of which will be shown after the hypothesis is formed, the researcher will continue to look for new patterns when comparing data previously collected with data that he or she continues to collect.

subject of study of ethnography

Subject of study

In general, the subject of study of ethnography is not one specific person and her subjective observations and responses. Instead, it is community oriented and what patterns are common in it. Ethnographic studies are often conducted in the field. That is, researchers usually go to the community they are studying. They can spend hours, months, and even years talking to people in the community. Comments, interviews and documents can be a good source of information for ethnographic researchers.

Quantitative and qualitative studies

What is studying ethnography? Before delving into the details of ethnography, let's clarify the differences between quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative studies are those that use numerical data and statistical analysis to test their hypotheses. When properly completed, quantitative research can help create theories that can be generalized to the entire data set.

On the other hand, qualitative studies do not use numerical data. Instead, they use different methods,to tell a detailed story about a theory or phenomenon, providing a complete, rich description that recreates an event, shares a story, or describes a culture or environment.

Research by observation

What is ethnography? The definition is as follows: this is a study by directly observing users in their natural environment, and not in the laboratory. The purpose of this type of research is to get an idea of ​​how users interact with things in their natural environment. What is ethnography?

The definition of this concept also includes a qualitative study on the social interaction of users in a given environment. This study provides a deep understanding of the views and actions of the user along with the phenomena that they encounter during their day. It provides the researcher with an understanding of how these users see the world and how they interact with everything around them.


Analysis of the results will depend on the method used to collect the information. Considering what is studying ethnography, it should be notedthat her research provides a detailed overview of users and how they perform tasks that are under consideration. Researchers will search for patterns and themes from the data. They will look for problems and obstacles that users face and how this affects them.

One of the methods used for data analysis is the use of an affinity diagram. This method allows you to make all the observations from the study and group them together so that you can start looking for patterns. Researchers put all their key points on the notes, and then classify them into groups that relate to the same topic.

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