MY526      Half Unit
Doing Ethnography

This information is for the 2022/23 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 International Relations, MPhil/PhD in Regional and Urban Planning Studies, MPhil/PhD in Social Research Methods 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.

This course is not controlled access. If you register for a place and meet the prerequisites, if any, you are likely to be given a place


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 exemplar texts, and through students' experience of fieldwork. Fieldwork is a key component of the course, with students collecting data in a setting, usually one 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.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours in Lent Term.

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) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Methodology

Total students 2021/22: 17

Average class size 2021/22: 5

Lecture capture used 2021/22: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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