Ethnographic research is used to focus on a culture-sharing or subculture group; there’s a focus on developing complex and complete descriptions of the culture sharing group. In ethnography, the researcher will observe the group, then describe and interpret the shared and learned patterns. Ethnography really requires the researcher to become immersed in the lives of the individuals being studied, this is called participant observation. It’s important for the researcher to study the behaviors and language of these groups.
The understanding of cultural patterns in ideologies and beliefs is critical, and this happens through extensive fieldwork that includes collecting data through interviews, observations, artifacts, symbols and other forms. Questions found in an ethnographic study would attempt to answer, “What do people in this setting have to know and do to make this system work?” and, “If culture, sometimes defined simply as shared knowledge, is mostly caught rather than taught, how do thoe being inducted into the group find their ‘way in’ so that an adequate level of sharing is achieved?” (Creswell, 94).
Ethnographic studies are extremely important to qualitative research because it’s a detailed look at a cultural phenomena. As individuals that function in society, it’s helpful for us to understand that within our society there are subcultures to which people belong, in which their norms and ideologies may differ from ours. Getting some insight into the fact that there are so many different cultures and subcultures could help us understand each other better, or even how we see ourselves as people in society.
Creswell, John W. Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches. Sage: Los Angeles. 2013.
Wikipedia: Ethnography. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnography