(noun) A qualitative research method in which a researcher observes a social setting to provide descriptions of a group, society, or organization.

Example: Robert Henry Codrington’s (1830–1922) The Melanesians: Studies in their Anthropology and Folk-Lore (1891) or Margaret Mead’s (1901-1978) Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935).

Audio Pronunciation: (eth·nog·ra·phy)

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Usage Notes:

  • Plural: ethnographies
  • Also called descriptive anthropology.
  • Ethnography used in a sentence: I completed an ethnography of a domestic violence shelter.
  • An (noun) ethnographer uses the research methodology of ethnography to produce (adjective) ethnographic or (adjective) ethnographical work (adverb) ethnographically.

Related Quotations:

  • “Ethnographers seek out the insider’s viewpoint. Because culture is the knowledge people use to generate behavior and interpret experience, the ethnographer seeks to understand group members’ behavior from the inside, or cultural, perspective. Instead of looking for a subject to observe, ethnographers look for an informant to teach them the culture” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:4).

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Spradley, James P., and David W. McCurdy. 2008. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. Boston: Pearson Education.