Ethnographic research

Now that we have looked briefly at what educational research is, it’s time to get more specific about one of the qualitative designs.  Ethno means people and graphy is writing, so this is writing about groups of people.   It comes from cultural anthropology or writing about culture.   This could include their thoughts, the rules of their behaviours, the way they talk etc.  An important term here is how they share “Culture.”  This includes the language, politics and much more.    An ethnographer needs to spend time in the “field” to collect this data so that they can get an understanding of bigger problems surrounding the representative group.  (p.474)

In the 1990s, the perspective of researchers changed around the problems of representation, such as the researcher being only one of many voices, and legitimacy.  This is harder to understand, but basically multiple perspectives need to be drawn on, and not just building on some sort of neat canon.  (p.475)

There are three main types:

  1. A realist study tries to be objective with facts with a stance in the third person.  It avoids reflections.  (p.476)
  2. Case studies are a bit different to ethnography.  It may be about an individual.  It could be about a process.  A bounded system which has boundaries of time or space etc.   It could be an intrinsic case in that it is interesting in itself or instrumental where a special issue is highlighted by a number of cases.  Finally, it could also be called a collective case study because there are a number of cases on the same issue.
  3. Critical ethnography attempts to free oppressed groups in society and will go deeply into the politics and ideologies behind issues.  This researcher will be very careful about how they affect the group they study.


Creswell, J., & Guetterman, T. (2019). Educational research : planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (Sixth edition.). New York, NY: Pearson.

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