Ethnographic Research Methods (Complete with Examples)

Ethnographic Research Methods (Complete with Examples) – If we discuss research methods, in our minds will cross qualitative research, quantitative research and combination research (mixed methods).

Qualitative research is a study that uses natural background, with the intent of interpreting the phenomenon occurring and carried out by way of the various methods involved (Denzin and Lincoln in Moleong, 2012:5).

Ethnographic Research

In other words, qualitative research is a study using a naturalistic approach to finding and discovering the Pangertian or understanding of phenomena in a specific context.

Definition of Ethnographic Research

One example of a qualitative research method is the ethnographic research method. The word ethnography comes from the Greek word ethos which means ethnicity and graphos which means something written.

According to Emzir (2012: 18) ethnography which is populist science, formulated with a more modern language according to the times, ethnography may also be interpreted as a cultural group journal.

Ethnography is a study of natural behavior in a culture / entire social group according to Ary, DKK (2010: 459).

Its own culture according to LeCompte et al (in Creswell, 2012:462) is everything related to human behavior and beliefs. This includes political structure, economics, language, life stages, rituals, communication styles, and interactions.

So it can be concluded that ethnographic research is a qualitative research that examines the life of a group/society that scientifically aims to study, describe, analyze, and interpret the cultural patterns of groups in terms of behavior, language, beliefs, and shared views.

Use of Ethnographic Research

Creswell (2012: 462) explains that someone doing ethnographic research for group research is able to provide an understanding of broad problems.

A person performs ethnography when it has a group to learn to share cultures and has been together for some time and develops the values of togetherness, trust, and language. The person will capture the rules of conduct such as when the teacher has an informal relationship gathered in the favorite place to socialize (tax & Blase in Creswell, 2012:462).

Ethnography can provide detailed information about daily activities, such as the thoughts and activities of the Committee to find a new school principal (Wolcott, in Creswell, 2012: 462).

When conducting ethnography, researchers have long-term access to share cultures within the group so as to create detailed records of group member behavior and beliefs over time.

Historical development of ethnographic research

The ethnography that is practiced in the educational world has been formed by cultural anthropology, with an emphasis on issues related to cultural writing, and how ethnographic reports need to be read and understood today.

These factors are at the core of understanding the latest practices in ethnography (Bogdan & Biklen, 1998: Denzin, 1997: LeCompte et al., 1993: Walcott, 1999, in Creswell, 2012: 462).

Cultural anthropology is the root of the ethnographic roots of education. At the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries, anthropologists reviewed the “primitive” cultures through visits to other countries and struggled with the community for a long period of time.

They distance themselves from “being indigenous” (indigenous people) and identify themselves closely with the people they care about so they can write “objective” stories about what they see and hear.

These stories can be compared to other cultures on other continents, especially with the way of life of Africans but at certain times. For example, an anthropologist Margareth Mead has examined the influence of culture, youth, and ways of childcare in Samoa (Mead, in Creswell, 2012: 463).

The procedure for collecting data in the field uses observation and interviews.

Sociologists at the University of Chicago in the 1920-00s to 1950s conducted research that focused on the importance of research in one case whether it was the case of a larger individual, group, neighbor, or cultural unit.

Early interdisciplinary studies of anthropology began to crystallize during the 1950s and continued into the 1980s (LeCompte et al., In Creswell, 2012: 463). Educational anthropologists focus on cultural sub-groups, such as:

  • Career and life journey or analysis of individual roles;
  • Microetnography about workgroups and hobby groups on a small scale;
  • The study of a single class is abstracted as a community in small groups;
  • Study of school facilities or educational facilities that approach these units as separate (separate) communities (LeCompte et al., In Creswell, 2012: 463).

In the study, educational ethnographers developed and improved procedures borrowed from anthropology and sociology. From 1980 to this age, educational anthropologists and anthropologists have identified techniques for focusing on cultural groups, observing, analyzing data, and writing research reports.

According to Denzin (Creswell, 2012: 463), the event that limits ethnography is a book titled Writing Culture (Clifford & Marcus, 1986). and ethnographers have also “written in their own way” (Denzin, 1997, p. Xvii) Since then according to the contents of the book.

Clifford a Marcus raises two issues that attract many people to ethnography in general and in the field of educational research. The first is related to the crisis of representation. A crisis consists of reassessing how ethnographers interpret their groups very carefully.

Denzin argues that we can no longer see researchers as objective reporters who make statements everywhere (present everywhere) about the individuals they have examined. Instead, researchers only collect the most votes such as participants, readers, and parents to be heard. Then this triggers a second crisis: legitimacy.

The “reason” reliability, validity, and objectivity of “science” can no longer represent. Researchers need to evaluate each ethnographic study within the flexible standard boundaries inherent in the lives of participants, historical and cultural influences; and interactive forces sourced from the race, gender, and class.

Judging from this side, ethnography needs to incorporate perspective based on feministic thoughts, racial-based views, sex perspectives, and critical theories, and sensitivity to race, class, and gender.

Ethnography is now “messy” (Cart Marut) and finally presents itself in various forms such as (art) performances, poetry, drama, novels, or personal narratives (Denzin in Creswell, 2012: 463).

Types of Ethnographic Design

Ethnographic research has various forms according to Creswell (2012: 464). However, the main types that often appear in educational research reports are realist ethnography, case studies, and critical ethnography.

Realist ethnography

Realist ethnography is a popular approach used by cultural anthropologists. Ethnography as a mirror of certain attitudes that can be taken by researchers to be investigated according to Van Maanen in Creswell (2012: 464).

Realist ethnography as an objective view of a particular situation, generally for the view of a third person, then objectively reports all information that has been learned from the object of research (Creswell, 2012: 464). Examples of this realist ethnography:

  • Ethnographers describe research from a third-person perspective, participant observation reports, and their views. Ethnographer does not write his personal opinion about research reports and remains behind the scenes as a reporter who covers the facts.
  • The researcher reports objective data in the form of measurable information, not contaminated by bias, political goals, and personal judgments. Among the people studied, researchers can also describe daily life in detail. Standard categories for cultural descriptions can be used by ethnographers (eg social networks, family life, status systems, and work-life).
  • ethnographer produces the view of participants through an edited quote without changing its meaning and has a conclusion in the form of interpretation and cultural presentation (Van Maanen in Creswell, 2012:464).

Case study

Ethnography is often used in conjunction with case studies. One of the most important parts of ethnography, although it differs from ethnography in certain respects is conducting case studies.

Case study researchers generally do not focus on not groups but focus on activities, programs, or events involving individuals (Stake in Creswell, 2012: 465).

As researchers conduct group research, they may not identify the behavior patterns exhibited by the group but are more interested in describing group activities. Ethnographers together carry out a search that develops as a group that interacts over time.

Researchers tend to examine cultural themes. They only focus on an in-depth exploration of the actual “case” (Creswell, 2012: 465).

Although some researchers describe the “case” as an object of research (Pegs in Creswell, 2012: 465), and other researchers consider it a way of investigation (for example, Merriam, 1998). Case studies are an in-depth exploration of limited systems (e.g. events, activities, individuals or processes) taken from quite extensive data collection (Creswell, 2007).

Bounded means that the case is separate from other things in terms of time, place, or physical boundaries. Thus, the results of the research obtained only apply to objects that are researched and cannot be generalized in other objects even though they are still similar.

Some things that we might need to consider in determining the types of cases in qualitative research include:

1. Whether the case is experienced by an individual, some individuals separately or in groups, programs, activities, or activities (for example, teachers, some teachers, or the adoption of a new mathematical program).

2. “Case” is a series of steps in a process (e.g., Higher education curriculum process) that will form a series of activities.

3. A selected case will be investigated from something strange, unusual and useful, by following its division:

  • Intrinsic cases, from cases that are studied in depth contain interesting things to learn come from the case itself, or can be said to contain intrinsic interest.
  • Instrumental cases (instrumental cases), if cases are studied in depth because the results will be used to refine or improve existing theories or to develop new theories. This can be said as an instrumental case study, the interest to study it outside the case or external interests.
  • Collective cases (collective cases), is where several cases are explained and compared by providing insight into the problem. A case study researcher can examine several schools to illustrate alternative approaches to school choice for students.
  • The researchers tried to develop a deep understanding of this case by gathering various forms of data (e.g. images, clippings, videos, and e-mails). This explanation provides a thorough understanding of some good case requirements to study because the researcher has a time limit to devote and explore the depth of the case to be examined.
  • The researchers also looked at cases in a broader context, such as geography, politics, social, or economics (e.g., family constellations consisting of adopting family members, siblings, and grandparents).

Critical ethnography

Critical ethnography is a type of ethnographic study in which the writer is interested in fighting for the emancipation of the Group in society (Thomas in Creswell, 2012: 467).

Critical researchers usually think and search through their research, advocating inequality and dominance (Carspecken & Apple in Creswell, 2012: 467).

For example, an ethnographer critically examines a school that provides facilities for certain students, creates an unfair situation among members of different social classes, and allows gender discrimination.

The main components of critical ethnography are factors such as value-oriented orientation, empowering society by giving more authority, challenging the status quo, and concerns about power and control (Madison in Creswell, 2012: 467). These factors include :

  • Investigate the problems of social power, empowerment, inequality, injustice, domination, repression, hegemony and victims.
  • The researchers conducted critical ethnography so that their research did not advance the individual UNDERGIRB that was being studied. Thus, the reader collaborates, participates actively, and cooperates in writing the final report. Critical ethnographic researchers are expected to be careful in entering and leaving research sites, as well as providing feedback.
  • Ethnographic researchers provide a conscious understanding, recognizing that interpretations reflect our own history and culture. Interpretation can only be temporary and depends on how the participant will see it.
  • Critical researchers position themselves and are aware of their role in the writing of research reports.
  • This position is not neutral for critical researchers, this means that critical ethnography will be a supporter of change to help change our society so that no more are oppressed and captured.
  • Finally, critical ethnographic reports will be messy, stratified, stratified approaches to inquiry, full of contradictions, unthinkable, and tense (Denzin, in Creswell, 2012: 467).

Ethnographic Advantages and disadvantages

Some of the advantages and disadvantages of ethnographic research according to Gall (2003: 494-495).

The advantages

One of the most valuable aspects of ethnographic research is its depth. Because researchers have long, researchers look at what people do and what they say. Researchers can gain an in-depth understanding of people, organizations, and broader contexts.

Field researchers develop familiarity with the dilemmas, frustrations, routines, relationships, and risks that are part of everyday life. The profound force of ethnography is the most “deep” or “intensive”.

Knowledge of what is happening in the field can provide important information for the formulation of research assumptions. In brief, the benefits of using ethnographic research are explained below, as follows:

  • Generate a deep understanding. Because what is sought in this study is not visible, but is contained in what is seen
  • Obtaining or obtaining data from the main source means having a high level of giddiness.
  • Generate rich descriptions, specific and detailed explanations
  • Researchers interact directly with social communities to study.
  • It helps the ability of interaction because it demands the ability to socialize in the culture that he is trying to explain.


One of the main weaknesses of ethnographic research is that it takes more time than other forms of research. Both require a long time working in the field and analyzing the materials obtained from research.

For most people, this means extra time. Another weakness of ethnographic research is that the scope of research is not broad. The ethnography of a study is usually only one cultural organization.

Even this limitation is a general criticism of ethnographic research, this study only leads to in-depth knowledge of specific contexts and situations. In brief, the disadvantages of using ethnographic research are explained below, as follows:

  • The assessment perspective is likely to be influenced by researchers’ cultural trends.
  • It takes a long time to collect data and manage data.
  • The influence of culture understudy can influence psychological researchers when researchers restore their original culture.
  • Researchers who do not have the skills of socialization, there is the possibility of rejection, from the community to be investigated.
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