Ethnography traditionally has been thought as the investigation of culture of small, relatively homogeneous, naturally or artificially bounded groups. Ethnography can be considered as a style of research that lays down the procedural rules to study people in naturally occurring settings or field. Originally used in cultural anthropology as a method to study the exotic cultures, at present ethnography as a research method is used in multitude of disciplines. Fetterman (1998) called Ethnographers as both story tellers and scientists. They practice a systematic, rigorous and formal study by giving an accurate account of people they study. Since the late 1980’s, ethnography has had to find its populations within the multilayered, multi-ethnic and, highly diverse group that characterize human existence. Ethnography puts researchers into other people’s worlds’ (Hall 2001).

Ethnography usually refers to forms of social research that features

  • A strong emphasis on the nature of particular social phenomena rather than setting out to   test hypotheses about them.
  • A tendency to work primarily with “unstructured” data, i.e. ,data that have not been  coded at the point of data collection in terms of a closed set of analytical categories.
  • Investigation of data that involves explicit interpretation of the meaning and functions of human actions, the product of which mainly takes the form of verbal descriptions and explanations, with quantification and statistical analysis playing a subordinate role at most.

LeCompte and Preissle (1993) defined the study areas of ethnography as ‘studies of enculturation and acculturation from anthropology, studies of socialization and institutionalized education from sociology, and studies of socio cultural learning and cognition and child and adult development from psychology’.

A study to be called ethnography according to Stewart (1998) should have the following characteristics.

 Guest Faculty, Department of Commerce, Vimala College, Thrissur

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