Not available in 2020/21
MY526      Half Unit
Doing Ethnography

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Chana Teeger COL7.06


This course is available on the MPhil/PhD in Economic Geography, MPhil/PhD in Environmental Policy and Development, MPhil/PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies, MPhil/PhD in Regional and Urban Planning Studies and MRes/PhD in Accounting (AOI) (Accounting, Organisations and Institutions Track). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course is available to all research students.


There are no prerequisites but some prior training in qualitative research methods is expected. Please contact the course convenor if unsure.

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.

This course has a Reading Week in Week 6 of LT. 

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

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. Laureau, Annette. (2011). Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life (2nd Edition). Berkeley: University Press


Essay (100%, 4000 words).

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2019/20: 10

Average class size 2019/20: 12

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