Ethnographic Research Paper Methodologies Outlined By Experts

If you are looking to write an ethnographic research paper, it is important that you have an understanding of some basic methodologies used. Ethnographic research involves giving a rich description of the culture, activities, and interactions of a particular group of people. This research has recently been adopted to the study of online communities as well, in the form known as netnography. This goes to show how robust ethnography, and by extension, ethnographic research methodologies are. In this article, we will give an introduction to what ethnographic methods are, as well as note 7 methodologies to apply in your research.

What Are Ethnographic Methods?

Before you understand what is an ethnography paper, you must first understand what are ethnographic methods. An ethnographic method can be described as a research approach towards developing an understanding of a particular study population. Applying these methods involves examining and identifying the interactions between people, as well as their interactions with their environments. One of the main goals of ethnography is to develop an analysis of a community, culture, or even an organization. The languages used, artifacts, and symbols, as well as activities, are all taken into consideration when making observations.

The history of ethnographic methods is traced to social anthropology, as well as the work of Malinowski. The seminal text, Argonauts of the Western Pacific, written by Malinkwski himself, offers a description of his life while with the South Pacific islanders. Malinowski spent a long time with these islanders, and during that time he was able to learn their language while living with the population. In his seminal text, he goes on to advise other anthropologists and paper writers to do the same by spending at least a year themselves living with the particular population their research is based on. While early ethnographers were criticized for offering detached analyses, these days, modern researchers take a more immersive approach when working on papers.

Ethnographic Methodologies

Depending on your ethnographic paper format, you might decide to implement either one or a combination of these methodologies.

Ethnographic Methodologies

Participant observation

This is considered to be one of the more famous methods used in ethnographic research papers for data collection. In essence, it involves you, the researcher, directly inspecting the activities of the subject your research is based on. As part of your observation, you might choose to either actively participate in the study group or simply monitor from the background to provide content for your topics.

An example of actively participating may be enlisting as a volunteer to have a better understanding of the work-life relations, for instance, in a construction site. Simply inspecting in the background involves taking notes of the workers’ behaviors and activities, which will be beneficial for your paper.

Despite the template you select for your participant observations, you will be required to note, describe and analyze the activities of people and their interactions in an effort to create a systematic understanding of human behavior in a particular organization or community. This is an important skill to use when learning how to start an ethnography research.

Structured observation

It is an interesting approach to data collection you might want to consider when writing ethnography papers. It differs from the previous method as it aims to be more mechanical or systematic in its approach. Not only that, but it focuses more on quantifying observations as opposed to trying to qualify them with insightful descriptions. This is something students may have to consider when learning how to write an ethnography paper in college during their studies.

Live and work

This ethnographic research approach is also referred to as naturalism. It involves directly observing the lifestyle and habits of your studied group. The researcher uses the ideas they get from identifying and recording their behavioral patterns through fieldwork. One of the tips you’ll learn on how to write ethnography papers is the researcher should limit the number of interactions that they have with the study population to increase the chances of obtaining an objective outcome.


This is a qualitative methodology that involves combining the observations with direct interactions in an attempt to arrive at the most reliable conclusion. In the process of writing an ethnography paper, the researcher actively interacts with members of the study population as they carry out various activities that are related to the research topic. However, the thesis report can be subject to experimental bias due to the interactions between the researcher and the study subjects.


This is an inductive approach used in research projects to gather information on the study population. It involves creating a hypothesis outline through survey questions and then distributing them to the studied group. To achieve the maximum result, you might want to consider including different types of questions, such as short multiple-choice questions, open-ended and close-ended questions.

The Senses

For western communities, it is generally agreed that we have 5 senses; seeing, touching, hearing, taste, and smell. However, this is not the case everywhere in the world. In Ghana, for instance, the Ewe tribe believes that there is a 6th sense that is both psychological and physical at the same time. Aside from this, different environments and objects have their own unique smells, taste, feel, and they also look and sound differently. As a result of this, in the context of ethnography studies, our perceptions as researchers are subjective and as such should not be looked at as a representation of the experience but rather as a cultural classification system with the researcher playing an integral part.

Digital Ethnography

With the invention of the internet and advancement in technology, there has been an increase in the amount of digital data produced. People today communicate a lot through social media about their personal lives, politics, and social events that affect them and others as well. People use emojis and selfies as ways to interact and express themselves, usually within the locally accepted social norms. The ongoing ethnographic research into these behaviors online is referred to as netnography.


Ethnography is a fascinating subject that can be used to produce truly amazing research. As a sociology student, you may find yourself having to write multiple papers on this topic. If you have issues with such research or paper writing, it can help to find a sample online to learn from. There are numerous professional writing services online, with some offering free ethnography paper examples. These online writing services also provide expert writers that can take your research and put it into writing using immaculate grammar. If you decide to search online, you might be overwhelmed with the number of writing services you find. To help make a good choice, you may want to do research by visiting online forums and reading reviews of trusted third-party websites.