What is Ethnographic study?

Ethnographic study is a field study technique, where the researcher gets completely immersed in the lifestyle of the area or situation they are studying. It is nothing but a detailed study of a particular cultural group. The study was originally developed by anthropologists in order to study a society, group or culture in detail. Ethnographic research is also known as qualitative research. Ethnography proposes a study through direct natural observations of users in a natural environment rather than in a science laboratory. The main purpose of this study is to understand what is happening naturally in a particular setting. It provides the researcher an idea how the selected subjects view the outside world and how they interact with everything that surrounds them. Researcher collects data from a natural setting which includes a wide variety of variables. No attempt is made to regulate or control the variables in the selected setting as this can destroy or alter the phenomenon being studied. The length of the study is depended on the topic of the research which is being conducted. It can range from a couple of hours of observations to a several set of months.

The word ‘ethnography’ derived from the Greek words; ‘ethnos’ and ‘graphein’. Ethnos stands for people and graphein called writing. That is why ethnography is also called as ‘culture writing’. This study is one of the most distinctive features of anthropology (Scientific study of human, human behavior and societies in the past and present. Socio cultural anthropologists who conduct ethnographies are named as ethnographers. The important instrument used to gather information is the researcher itself. 

While conducting the study, these researchers live in that particular culture. They get engaged in the daily lifestyle of the people to be studied and observe the culture in detail. Information can be collected observations, interviews, questionnaires and document analysis. Thus, validity of this study is completely depended on the skill and quality of the researchers. Ethnographic studies can be expensive and time consuming at times as the researchers are stepping out from the comfortable laboratories to the field of process. One of the main benefits of ethnographic study is that, it helps to identify and analyze unexpected problems and issues. This is because, the researcher is completely immersed in the lives of people and their culture which is to be studied. Malinowski’s six years’ field work among the native people of Trobriand Island, published in 1922, Margaret Mead’s coming of age in Samoa were some of the famous ethnographic studies ever. Many journals publish ethnographic studies on a wide variety of topics. The Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute is one of the oldest among them, which has been publishing anthropological works since more than 150 years.

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