Evaluation Cookbook

cookbook logo
Route map: Home=>Publications=>Evaluation Cookbook=>Ethnography
 Summary   Process   Variations   Links page   References  Add comment 


1. Outline
The essence of an ethnographic approach is 'in situ' observation. The events being observed should be as little disturbed and as authentic as possible. Sources of information may include: Hint
o Naturally occurring documentation.
o Participant observation.
o Audio and video recording.
o Field notes and transcribed conversation.

2. Practicalities
Analysis and Data Collection
Analysis and data collection are not distinct phases, they occur simultaneously. Both are 'messy' and involve the use of human beings as the instrument of observation. Ethnography relies upon detail to convey the feel as well as the facts of an observed setting. Hint

A "thick description" provides context that interprets observed actions and provides meaning to these actions. In this way analysis can fuse with description.

A "thin description" would only detail events whereas a thick description would try to analyse possible intent and the interpretation of events by participants. As a result, verbatim quotations can be the most identifiable feature of an ethnography. This can give a sense of immediacy as well as providing a record for judging any interpretations made.

The Role of the Observer
A central feature of ethnography is the stance taken by the observer. Indifference characterises ethnography. In this context indifference expresses an uncritical stance that doesn't set out to judge what is observed. This 'natural attitude' can be essential in gaining and maintaining trust. Hint

Because information may be embarrassing or jeopardise individuals the researcher must be careful to make reports as anonymous as possible. This can prove difficult if the research is 'in house'.

Note: Innocent or informed ethnography?

Note: Don't go native.

versions for printing are available

[ Summary | Process | Variations | Links page | References | Add comment ]
[ Printable version ]
[ Contents | Recipes ]

© All rights reserved LTDI and content authors.
Last modified: 25 March 1999.