Methodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 2.5
Number of sessions: 4
Hours per session: 3
Course fee: 

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • € 575,- for non-members
  • Consult our enrolment policy for more information.


Telephone: +31 (0)10 4082607 (Graduate School)

In the academic year 2023-2024 this course will take place offline.

Session 1
June 13 (Thursday) 2024
Mandeville building (campus map), room T19-01

Session 2
June 13 (Thursday) 2024
Mandeville building (campus map), room T19-01

Session 3
June 14 (Friday) 2024
Mandeville building (campus map), room T19-01

Session 4
June 14 (Friday) 2024
Mandeville building (campus map), room T19-01

Enrolment is available from December.


This course focuses on the practicalities of ethnographic fieldwork in public, semi-public and private settings such as businesses, court rooms, online, parks, schools, and refugee camps. During the course you will learn how to conduct ethnographic research methods in practice; e.g. how to ‘hang around’ and how to participate and observe in the field. Before doing ethnography, we will discuss the basic theoretical, methodological and epistemological foundations of ethnography. We will also discuss ethical dilemmas and your own social responsibility while doing ethnography. We will talk about how to analyse ethnographic material and lastly how to produce ethnographies. The ethnographic approaches covered in this course can be applied in all social science research fields, such as anthropology, communication studies, criminology, educational sciences, history, psychology, public administration, sociology, etc. 

(This course was set up in 2018 by prof. dr. Liesbet van Zoonen, and redesigned in 2020/2021 by dr. Talitha Stam. The current teachers use their work and add their own perspectives.) 

Aims and working method

There will be a combination of lectures, practical assignments and discussion. Throughout the course, you will be asked to relate the protocols and methodology of ethnography to your own research interests. The intent is to build a foundation for understanding basic epistemological, methodological and ethical questions regarding the practice of ethnographic fieldwork methods, in particular participant observation, and the writing and processing of ethnographic field notes. 

Learning objectives

After the course, you will have: 

  • A basic knowledge of the practicalities in ethnographic fieldwork;
  • a basic understanding of the theoretical and epistemological foundations of ethnography;
  • an understanding of the methodological challenges of ethnographic research;
  • an awareness of potential ethical issues, and 
  • an understanding of the dynamics between theory, fieldwork practice and writing up of results.

Session descriptions

  • Session 1: What is ethnography?
    - Foundations of ethnographic research
    - Theoretical and epistemological considerations
    - Various types of ethnography: face-to-face vs. digital

  • Session 2: Doing ethnography
    - Doing participant observation and other ethnographic data collection techniques
    - Writing fieldnotes
    - Ethical dilemmas, impression management and the role of the researcher

  • Session 3: Coding & Analysis
    - Analyzing ethnographic material
    - Coding your data
    - Theory construction: from grounded to abductive analysis

  • Session 4: Producing ethnography
    - How to write ethnographic texts?
    - How to apply ethnography to your own research?
    - Individual feedback

How to prepare

Before starting the course, you will be asked by the instructor to complete a survey in Canvas.

  • Session 1: What is ethnography?

Home assignment 1:
5-minutes presentation of your PhD-project: how do (could) you use ethnographic research methods? What is going well and what would you like to improve?

Recommended reading/watching: 
G. Gobo, (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. Part 1: The Methodology.

R. Hallet and K. Barber (2014). Ethnographic research in a cyber era. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 43(3), 306-330.

Ellen Isaacs on Ethnography/TedTalk:

  • Session 2: Doing Ethnography

Home assignment 2:
Doing a (participant) observation and writing fieldnotes

Recommended reading:
- G. Gobo (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. [Part 2: Working the Field]

- Emerson, Robert M. et al, ed. 2011.  Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

-A. Gengler and M. Ezzell (2018). Methodological impression management in ethnographic research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 47(6), 807-833.

-J. Ferdinand et al. (2007). A different kind of ethics. Ethnography, 8(4), 519-543.

  • Session 3: Coding & Analysis 

​​​​​​​Home assignment 3
Taking an ethnogrpahic interview transcript/fieldnotes with you to class and doing peer coding.

Recommended reading/watching:
- G. Gobo (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. Part 3: Analysing Ethnographic Data and Theory Building

-S. Timmermans and I. Tavory (2012). Theory construction in qualitative research: from grounded theory to abductive analysis, Sociological Theory, 30(3), 167-186.

-Knowledge clips on coding and analysis by Jitse Schuurmans and Martijn Felder (links will be made available before the course starts)

  • Session 4: Producing ethnography

NB. During the course, the instructors are happy to provide additional recommendations for readings based on your own needs and interests.

5-minutes presentations about your own progress in ethnographic research: what new insights have you incorporated since participating in the course? What are your ideas for future research/PhD project?

Recommended reading: 
G. Gobo (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. Part 4: audiences. Communicating findings, writing ethnographies.

L. Schindler and H. Schaefer (2021). Practices of writing in ethnographic work. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 50(1), 11-32.


About the instructors

Dr. Lieke Oldenhof is an Assistant Professor at the healthcare governance department of the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management. In 2015, Lieke obtained her PhD (cum laude) at the Erasmus University. Her PhD provides an ethnographic account of the daily work of healthcare managers in a changing welfare state. In this PhD she applied the method of shadowing: following managers around in what they do. In her current research (Veni grant) she observes public encounters between citizens and street-level bureaucrats. She is particularly interested in how the nature of public encounters changes due to current ideas about co-production.



Dr. Jitse Schuurmans is an anthropologist and Assistant Professor at the healthcare governance department of the Erasmus School of Health Policy and Management. He received his PhD at the UvA on the relationship between gender and citizenship in the United States and China. He taught various method courses such as cultural anthropology and qualitative methods. Currently, he conducts ethnographic research about how care is organized in peripheral regions with increasing scarcity of care professionals.