5/5 - (3 votes)

What is Ethnography?

Ethnographic writing requires a significant amount of time investment. The process of conducting research and analyzing data can span several months. Ethnographers immerse themselves in a specific community, residing among its members in order to gain an in-depth understanding of their culture. They carefully observe the behaviors and lifestyles of the individuals within the community. In addition to observation, ethnographers employ various methods to collect data, forming their ethnographic report’s foundation. In this discussion, we will explore three distinct approaches to ethnographic writing:

  1. Interpretive style
  2. Inclusive style
  3. Descriptive style

Steps to Writing an Ethnography

At the start of your research, it is essential to create detailed field notes that capture all of your experiences, regardless of how insignificant they may appear. These field notes will assist you in determining the appropriate writing style to adopt. Many students often feel overwhelmed when writing ethnographic papers due to the extensive volume of observations they have made. It can be challenging for them to narrow down their focus and stay on track. It is easy to veer off-topic and delve into tangents, particularly when exploring human behavior and social theories. It is advisable to break down the paper into various sections to overcome this. The primary steps involved may include:

Understanding Your Audience and Topic

When composing any document, it is crucial to consider your audience. Understanding your audience enables you to fine-tune your tone and style accordingly, ensuring effective communication. Identifying the intended readership allows you to adapt your writing to their specific needs. For instance, if your target audience consists of students, you may need to provide a concise explanation of why and how you employed certain research methods. On the other hand, if you are writing for a journal, you might focus more on aligning your writing style with that of journal articles.

Given the vast scope of social behavior, many students struggle to maintain a narrow focus in their writing. Failure to do so can result in producing a vague and unengaging piece of work that confuses rather than educates the readers. It is important to discern the particular aspect of the culture they wish to study. Once you clearly understand your goal, you can proceed with your research and writing endeavors confidently.

Students Away from Their Targeted Community

In situations where you do not have the opportunity to directly immerse yourself within the community that your ethnography is centered upon, there is an alternative approach. You can effectively gather insights by studying the works of other ethnographers who have focused on your specific group of people. By examining their research and observations, you can gain valuable knowledge and understanding of the community, even if you are not physically present among its members. This method allows you to leverage the expertise and findings of other scholars to inform your own ethnographic study.

The Thesis Statement and Outline

The thesis statement holds significant importance in an ethnography as it establishes the overarching theme of your research. It serves as a concise summary of the central idea and enables the reader to grasp the main concept of your paper. Throughout the writing process, referring back to the thesis statement helps you maintain focus on the central theme and logically integrate your findings. It aids in organizing your creative writing within the paper. The ultimate goal of the thesis statement is to help the audience recognize the significance of the social aspect you have studied.

Once you have identified the theme, central idea, and thesis statement, the next step involves creating an outline for your ethnographic writing. You can draw upon your own fieldwork materials to assist you in this process. The outline serves as a guide to keep you on track with both writing and data gathering. It allows you to determine which groups of people to engage with more, how to incorporate your daily life experiences and more. By reviewing all the ethnographic data collected from the field sites, you can craft a well-structured outline that facilitates the writing process. Breaking down your report into sections enables you to focus on each section individually, avoiding unnecessary repetition or overlapping of information.

Literature Reviews

Undoubtedly, a literature review holds great significance within an ethnographic report. It serves as a concise overview of previous research conducted on your current topic. The literature review plays multiple roles, as it aids in gathering relevant information, enhances the credibility of your work, and provides a solid foundation for developing your argument. When writing a literature review, it is crucial to focus on the entirety of each study, from the topic under investigation to the conclusions drawn. By examining the research methodologies and data analysis techniques employed in previous studies, you can gain valuable insights and better understand the methods to employ for your own ethnographic descriptions. Including 3 to 5 literature reviews in your paper is a typical recommendation, but the specific number may vary depending on the requirements of your research.

Data Collection and Analysis

In your ethnographic report, it is essential to include details about the data collection tools you utilized. Additionally, you should provide a comprehensive explanation for your choice of these specific methods. Furthermore, you need to present the results of the data you have gathered through these methods. In ethnography, there are typically two common methods employed for data collection:

Participant observation

This method involves immersing yourself in the community or group being studied and actively observing and participating in their daily activities and interactions. It allows you to gain firsthand insights into their culture, behaviors, and social dynamics.


Conducting interviews with individuals from the community or group provides an opportunity to gather in-depth information, perspectives, and personal experiences. Structured, semi-structured, or open-ended interview formats can be employed based on the research objectives.

These data collection methods should be described in detail within your report, explaining how they were applied and providing examples or excerpts from your observations or interviews to support your findings.


When writing an ethnographic report, reflexivity pertains to providing a comprehensive account of the research process. It entails sharing details about the researcher’s background, motivations, and reasons for selecting a specific ethnic group or cultural aspect for study. Reflexivity also involves explaining the rationale behind the research tools employed to gather ethnographic data, ensuring transparency and clarity in the data analysis process. This section helps prevent any misunderstandings related to data interpretation.

Additionally, reflexivity allows the writer to acknowledge and discuss any limitations or challenges encountered during the research process. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the uniqueness of the study in comparison to previous research conducted in the field. Furthermore, reflexivity enables the writer to elaborate on how their research contributes value to the social sciences, highlighting its potential implications and significance. By incorporating reflexivity into the report, the researcher adds depth and transparency, enhancing the overall quality of the ethnographic study.

Writing the Introduction and Conclusion

A helpful tip in the writing process is to leave the introduction and conclusion for the end. The introduction serves as a summary of the entire report, providing the reader with a glimpse of what to expect from the paper. By writing the introduction after completing the main body of the report, you can better articulate your thoughts and create a strong platform for presenting your thesis statement.

Similarly, every academic report should include a conclusion. However, it is crucial to keep the conclusion concise and focused. A lengthy conclusion can potentially lose the interest of the audience. Instead, aim to highlight the key findings of your research and provide your interpretation of those findings. The conclusion serves as a final opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the reader, so it is important to convey your main points effectively and succinctly.

Share This Post!

Editing More than 200,000 Words a Day

Send us Your Manuscript to Further Your Publication.