The assumptions and observations made. This period of

The first step is to identify a question or problem that needs to be addressed. The next step is to you might need to formulate additional questions that will help in identifying what you have to observe and how you should go about collecting the data. Once your guiding questions have been established, the data collection process begins.

First, you have to gain entrée to the population being studied. There are two access types open access and closed access which you will encounter when conducting ethnographic researchi.

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1.      Open Access: It is when the researcher does not need permission to collect data and observe the population. Examples of open access are concerts, communities, groups in malls, and any other public settings. Nevertheless, the researcher must be accepted by the group in order to conduct research. Without this acceptance the researcher will probably be able to make observations but cannot take the research any further by conducting interviews with individual group members or ascertain other relevant information.

2.      Closed Access: It is when the researcher needs permission and introductions from the gatekeeper of the population. Examples of closed access are corporations, schools and hospitals.

Access is important because without it observations cannot be confirmed through interviews and the researcher cannot gain access to other important information that may inform the study, such as group artifacts, history, and the environment. Once access has been granted, the researcher can begin collecting the data from the population by conducting long-term observations and in-depth interviews. The interviews provide the researcher with a cross-check on assumptions and observations made. This period of data collection continues until the research is complete.

Benefits and Issues Involved

The following are the benefits of ethnography:

1.      Ethnography is Persistent and Engaged: Ethnographic study normally involves prolonged fieldwork in which the researcher gains entrée to a social group and carries out intensive observation in natural settings for a period of months or years. To understand what those participants under study are doing and saying.

2.      Ethnography is Minute and Holistic: Ethnographers often move toward broad interpretations and abstract analyses from the study of daily actions and routines. To make sure that the generalizations made are culturally suitable, they must be grounded in gathering of the specifics of everyday life and the participants’ reflections of them. However only describing what is seen and heard is not enough. To assign meaning to observations of specific activities and behaviors, one must engage in a process of interpretation that is called thick description.

3.      Ethnography is Flexible and Self-Corrective: Unlike experimental and quasi-experimental research where the procedures are strictly controlled, ethnography study is dialectical or feedback method in which the ethnographer has the options of changing the questions during the course of enquiry.

4.      Builds Relationship by Immersing the Project Team in Participants’ Lives: While carrying out ethnographic research the researcher gets immersed in the lives of the participants, this helps them to maintain very good relationship with the participants.

5.      Provides Rich Source of Visual Data: Ethnographic research provides very rich source of visual data, which helps in carrying out the research very efficiently.

6.      Captures Behavior (Emotional Behavior) in the Different Contexts of Everyday Life: The ethnographer captures the emotional behavior which is the mental state of the participant that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by psychological changes.

7.      It places a human face on data through real-life stories that teams can relate to and remember.

8.      It helps to identify discrepancies between what people say they do and what they actually do.

Issues in Ethnographic Research

Following are the issues of ethnography:

·         It helps to identify discrepancies between what people say they do and what they actually do.

·         It is time consuming and requires a well-trained researcher. 

·         It takes time to build trust with informants in order to facilitate full and honest discourse. 

·         Not useful for short term studies.

·         Bias on the part of the researcher can affect both the design of the study and the collection and interpretation of data. 

·         Too little data may lead to false assumptions about behavior patterns, while large quantities of data may not be processed effectively.

Stages in Conducting Ethnography

Singleton and Straits (2005) have identified the following stages in field research:

Identification of Problem: The first step is to define the main focus of the study by identifying the problem for which the researcher needs solution.
Selecting of Research Location: The researcher ought to decide a priori from where to begin. The research location should the help the researcher to view the participants under study very clearly. The researcher can select the research setting in which they can readily fit.
Gaining Entrée: The next step is to get into a group that the researcher wishes to study. The researcher might have to take formal permission which can be facilitated if they have a friend who can vouch for them. They can also gain entrée if they first participate in the group as a volunteer and not as a researcher.
Formal Introduction: The researcher should introduce himself/herself to the participants. The roles which the researcher needs to adopt and relate to others? How the researcher will be participating in participants’ lives’.  
Data Collection: The next step is to collect the data. Sometimes the researcher might find it difficult to record and gather data simultaneously. They have to keep in mind: (a) as to the types of information that should be taken as field notes or recorded?; (b) alternative steps to be followed  if they cannot fully record the participant’s observations while they are in the field; (c) to always carry a notepad for brief jottings. According to Singleton and Straits (2005), the field notes or comprehensive eloquent accounts of any observation made during a given time period should include the following elements:

a.       Running description: running description refers to recording of day’s observation; this ensures that accuracy of data collection. The researcher should also avoid analyzing persons or events while in the field because there is no time and it will hinder the observation process.

b.      Elapsed episodes: These are accounts of previous episodes that the researcher has forgotten but they try to memorize again once they are in the field.

c.       Ideas and notes: These refer to spur-of-the moment ideas related to data collection, speculations about relationships, data analyses. These are notes that the researcher writes which would help him to plan the data collection process.

d.      Individual impressions and feelings: These refer to recordings regarding the subjective reactions the researcher has while carrying out the fieldwork. They may provide clues to biases which might be hindering the researcher’s observations.

e.       Methodological notes: Methodological notes consists of ideas specific to the techniques used in collecting the data, for example, any constraints the researcher faces while collecting the data, any biases that might be introduced by the data collection techniques.

i Retrieved from: