MY426      Half Unit
Doing Ethnography

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alasdair Jones COL 8.08


This course is available on the MSc in Gender (Research), MSc in Human Geography and Urban Studies (Research), MSc in Management, MSc in Management (CEMS MIM), MSc in Management (MiM Exchange), MSc in Social Policy (Research) and MSc in Social Research Methods. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


A postgraduate qualitative research methods course, such as MY421, as pre- or co-requisite. Familiarity with notions of research design in the social sciences, to the level of MY400 or equivalent

Course content

Doing ethnography enables us to examine how social order is produced as people go about their everyday interactions. Multiple sources of naturally-occurring data are used to understand how communities, organisations and institutions work, informally as well as formally. Contemporary conditions of globalisation, individualisation, bureaucratisation and digitisation introduce new challenges for such fieldwork. This interdisciplinary course equips students with a practical understanding of how to do, and to think about, contemporary ethnography. Core conceptual, ethical and methodological debates are introduced through in-depth engagement with book-length exemplars, and through students' experience of fieldwork. Fieldwork is a key component of the course, with  students collecting data locally (interesting sites are chosen each year, e.g. the Occupy encampment at St Paul's, protests around London, volunteering activities), followed by data analysis and presentation activities. Methodological concerns regarding case selection, establishing rigour, reflexivity, representing others, and ethical issues are addressed in detail. Practical issues addressed include identifying and accessing study sites, studying elite and marginalised groups, innovative sources of data, and writing field notes. Emphasising that ethnography relies on the researcher-as-research-instrument, the course aims to develop students' sensitivity and rigour as ethnographic researchers.


20 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Week 6 is a Reading Week during which students work independently on their formative assignments.

Formative coursework

An excerpt of field-notes from the field visit undertaken as part of the course (up to 2,500 words). Field-notes should record rich details of observations (the data), researcher reflections, and brief interpretations of the significance of these observations. Written feedback will be provided.

Indicative reading

Bourgois, P. ; Schonberg, J. (2009). Righteous Dopefiend. University of California Press. DeWalt, K. M.,; DeWalt, B. R. (2002). Participant observation: A guide for fieldworkers. AltaMira Press. Emerson, R. M., Fretz, R. I., ; Shaw, L. L. (1995). Writing ethnographic fieldnotes. University of Chicago Press. Hammersley, M ; Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in practice. Taylor ; Francis. Wacquant, L. (2004) Body and Soul: Ethnographic Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. New York: Oxford University Press.


Essay (100%, 4000 words) in the LT.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2015/16: 5

Average class size 2015/16: 3

Controlled access 2015/16: No

Lecture capture used 2015/16: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2012/13 - 2014/15 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 96%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Lectures (Q2.5)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)