Doing ethnography

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
  • € 525,- for non-members
  • Consult our enrolment policy for more information.


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

Session 1
May 19 (Tuesday) 2020
Polak building (directions), room 1-13 

Session 2
May 26 (Tuesday) 2020
Polak building (directions), room 1-14

Session 3
June 2 (Tuesday) 2020
Polak building (directions), room 1-23

Session 4
June 9 (Tuesday) 2020
Polak building (directions), room 1-10


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. 

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

  • Session 2: Doing Ethnography
    - Doing participant observation and other ethnographic data collection techniques
    - Ethical dilemmas and the role of the researcher

  • Session 3: Coding & Analysis
    - Setting up an ethnographic ‘data set’
    - Codes & Coding
    - Analyzing ethnographic material

  • 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?
    Recommended reading: 
    Gobo, G. (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. [Part 1: The Methodology]
    Additional reading: 
    Lichterman, P. (2017). Interpretive reflexivity in ethnography, Ethnography, Vol. 18(1) 35–45.
    Home assignment 1:
    Doing a participant observation and write thin descriptions

  • Session 2: Doing Ethnography
    Home assignment 2:
    Doing a participant observation and write thick descriptions
    Recommended reading: 
    - Brockmann, M. (2011) Problematising short-term participant observation and multi-method ethnographic studies, Ethnography and Education, 6(2): 229-243.
    - Gobo, G. (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. [Part 2: Working the Field]
    Additional reading: 
    Rabinow, P. (2007). Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco: with a New Preface by the Author. Univ of California Press.

  • Session 3: Coding & Analysis 
    Home assignment 3
    5-minutes presentation of your PhD-project on how ethnographic research methods could be used.
    Recommended reading: 
    - LeCompte, M. D., & Schensul, J. J. (2012). Analysis and interpretation of ethnographic data: A mixed methods approach (Vol. 5). Rowman Altamira. [chapter 5 and 6]
    - Gobo, G. (2008). Doing ethnography. Sage. [Part 3: Analysing Ethnographic Data and Theory Building
    Additional reading: 
    Chen, X., & Wang, C. (2019). Migrant gaming girls in Beijing: Urban solitude, play, and attempts to integrate. Ethnography

  • Session 4: Producing ethnography
    Recommended reading: 
    Emerson, Robert M. et al, ed. 2011.  Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
    Additional reading: 
    - Silva, M.L.e. (2015). Queer sex vignettes from a Brazilian favela: An ethnographic striptease. Ethnography, 16(2): 223-239
    - Stam, T. (2017). Reasons and resources: Understanding pupils’ aspirations in lower vocational Dutch education. Ethnography and Education, 12 (3), 259-270.

About the instructor

Dr. Talitha Stam is Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Public Administration and Sociology of Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is an educated anthropologist with a broad experience in ethnographic and other qualitative research methods in and outside the Netherlands. Her research interests are in the field of social inequalities, education, children, youth, families and ethnography.