MY526      Half Unit
Doing Ethnography

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Alasdair Jones COL 8.08


This course is available to all research students.


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 in a setting closely related to their PhD topic. Data collection is 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 access to 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 time 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

Bourgeois, P. & Schonberg, J. (2009). Righteous Dopefiend. University of California Press. De Laine, M. (2000). Fieldwork, participation and practice: Ethics and dilemmas in qualitative research. Sage Publications Ltd. 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. Wacquant, L. (2004) Body and Soul: Ethnographic Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer. New York: Oxford University Press.


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2015/16: 8

Average class size 2015/16: 8

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