How does Ethnography fit into the research process (Qualitative Research)?

Home / How does Ethnography fit into the research process (Qualitative Research)?

Ethnography begins from the theoretical position of describing social realities and their making. The foremost step of an ethnographic study is identification of the cultural group to be observed. This is followed by identifying the variables of the group, gaining entry and mingling with the people, acquiring information, defining the characteristics of the subjects and analysing the data gathered to reach proper conclusions

Research questions focus mainly on detailed descriptions of case studies. Using this method has key importance for the empirical and theoretical disclosure of the field under study and is not simply a problem which has to be solved technically. The scope for ethnography can be broad or narrow, depending on the type of culture that is to be observed. Study of a particular clan or social unit is termed as micro ethnography, while observing a wider cultural group comes under macro ethnography.

Ethnography can also be classified according to the viewpoint which it involves. Observing from within and knowing the insiders’ point of view is called emic perspective, while study of the outsiders’ perspective of the cultural group is known as etic. To maintain a balance between both these viewpoints, the researcher must not just understand the cultural group under study but also interpret the findings in a way that is intelligible for the external society.

Ethnography, thus, calls for a great level of reflexivity on the part of the researcher. The study should be conducted in the most natural surroundings and situations possible, to avoid any bias or deviation from the natural behaviour of people being studied. The study should involve a high degree of observation by the researcher, which can be done by taking notes or recording the conversations of the group being studied. The researcher often becomes an instrument or part of the research being conducted. This individual effort makes this particular method of research highly subjective.

The scope of ethnography is wide. It is beneficial for marketing research, by tracking the psychology and forecasting the behaviour of people. Advertising, demographic studies, criminology, medicinal research, nursing and economic studies find this branch of research highly helpful.

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