African American Heritage & Ethnography Ethnographic Research Center: What are Ethnographic Research methodologies?

What are Ethnographic Research methodologies?

There are several ways researchers conduct ethnographic research. Each, however, is designed to perform a specific task. Each method is designed to solicit a particular kind of information from participants. Some methods widely used by ethnographic researchers include:

Remember, the key to quality ethnographic research is trained researchers who are knowledgeable of the subject under study and who are able to work within community, time, budgetary, and personnel constraints.

Try It Yourself

Is it so “obvious?”

Interviews and participant observation are perhaps two of the more well-known ethnographic methods. Interviewing allows an ethnographer to personally connect with an individual while obtaining first hand information that is useful in answering a question or questions that have “obvious” answers.

To get a feel of how interviewing works, try this.

  • Think of a job, position, or activity that you see people around you perform everyday. Maybe someone who is a data specialist in your office, a supervisor, a crossing guard, teacher, janitor, street vendor, etc.
  • Having this activity in mind, interview two people (they can each have different jobs) and ask questions that address what it is they actually do everyday. You want to find out how they do this, step-by-step.
  • To begin, make a list of five questions that you would like to ask. For example, what is the title of your job? What are your qualifications? When do you perform your job? Is there a procedure to performing your job, etc.
  • After you have made this list, ask your fist interviewee these five questions. When you have completed that interview, seek out interviewee number 2.
  • This time, ask interviewee 2 open-ended questions like what is it that you do everyday? Can you describe it to me?

Were their answers to your questions obvious? Is there a difference in the responses that you received? Was one interview more informative or effective than the other? Did you ask them how much money they make, and if not why not? Which questions did you feel comfortable asking?

Try It Yourself

Grocery Store
Mental Maps and Observations

Mental maps provide valuable information about a place of study. The way in which people remember a place or space can give insight into their impressions of that place, its use, what was seen as being important enough to observe, and how they organize information spatially. Mental maps can provide insight into an individual’s perspective regarding a place or space.

How well do you think you know familiar places, like your local grocery store?

Try this:

  • Take a few moments to map out your local grocery store on a piece of paper.
  • After you have mapped it, look for patterns throughout the store. Are certain foods found near each other? Are beverages in more that one section, if so why?
  • Can you categorize the various sections of your grocery store?
  • Now, after making a mental map, go to the grocery store to see if you were correct.
  • Did you leave out anything? Have you noticed changes in the store since you began shopping there?
  • Does this give you any perspective on what you might find of importance in the grocery store?