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QUALITATIVE RESEARCH IN BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT

ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH

CHAPTER 8

Sage Publications Limited 2008 Michael D. Myers


All Rights Reserved
INTRODUCTION

Ethnographic research
is one of the most in-
depth research
methods possible
An ethnographer sees
what people are doing
as well as what they
say they are doing
It provides researchers
with rich insights into
the human, social and
cultural aspects of
organizations

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ETHNOGRAPHY
Ethno= Culture
Graphy = Writing

A description and interpretation of a cultural or


social group or system.

The researcher examines the groups observable


patterns of behavior, customs, and ways of life.

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ETHNOGRAPHY?
It documents routine daily lives of people
(Fetterman,1998)
Explores a cultural group
Lives with people, or spends a lot of time with them
Has a guiding question that evolves during the study
(Hall, 2003)
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THE PURPOSE OF ETHNOGRAPHY

The main purpose of ethnography is to obtain a


deep understanding of people and their culture
One distinguishing feature is fieldwork
Ethnographers immerse themselves in the life of
people they study [Lewis, 1985] and seek to place
the phenomena studied in their social and
cultural context
In ethnographic research, the context is what
defines the situation and makes it what it is

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Emic (insider group perspective) and
Etic (researchers interpretation of
social life).
Involves prolonged observation of the
group, typically through participant
observation.
Many ethnographies may be written in
a narrative or story telling approach
which may be difficult for the audience
accustomed to usual social science
writing.

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METHODOLOGY

Characteristics of Ethnographies
Holistic
Data collection and analysis occur together
Data collection fluctuates between individuals and
groups (Fetterman, 1998)
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WHERE TO USE ?

Cultural Anthropology
Sociology
Business
Organizational Psychology
ADVANTAGES AND
Advantages:
In-Depth understanding of a culture amongst a group
of people (detailed and more likely valid
interpretations)
Gives a voice to a culture to express their views, which
might not otherwise be heard
Influential in creating an understanding among
outsiders
Also may reveal embedded cultural values that were
not obvious to the group
ADVANTAGES AND
Disadvantages:
Cumbersome and Time-consuming, and can be
expensive
Possibility that researcher is changing the natural way a
culture behaves by being present
Not really able to generalize findings
Inappropriate for analyzing complex environmental
problems whose cause-effect relationships are external
to the place and time of study (e.g., climate change)
ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH AND CASE STUDY RESEARCH
COMPARED

Ethnographic research Case study research


Time commitment significant Time commitment less time
length of time required in the required in the field (weeks/few
field (months/years) months at most)
Orientation of researcher Orientation of researcher
learns from people studies people

Type of data collected Type of data collected mostly


interviews, documents, notes interviews and documents
from fieldwork and participant
observation
Ethnography is well suited to Case study is the study of an
study culture. individual, event or a
phenomena.

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HOW TO DO ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH:
SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONS

Write up field notes on a


regular basis write it down!
Write up an interview ASAP
Regularly review and develop
your ideas as the research
progresses
Develop strategies to deal with
a huge amount of data

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EVALUATING ETHNOGRAPHIC
RESEARCH STUDIES
Is this a contribution to the field?
Does the author offer rich insights?
Has a sufficient amount of data been collected?
Is there sufficient information about the research
method?

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