Ethnography and its varietiesMethodology courses and philosophy of science

Course information

ECTS: 1/2.5 (depending on the chosen track, see See aims and working method).
Number of sessions: 3 or 5
Hours per session: 3
Entry level: Intermediate
Course fee: 

  • free for PhD candidates of the Graduate School
  • € 440,- for non-members (2.5 ECTS track)
  • €330,- for non-members (1 ECTS track)
  • Consult our enrolment policy for more information.


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

Session 1 (introduction)
May 17 (Thursday) 2018
Tinbergen building (directions) room H5-06

Session 2 (auto-ethnography)
May 22 (Tuesday) 2018
Theil building (directions) room CT-5

Session 3 (auto-ethnography)
May 24 (Thursday) 2018
V building (directions) room VB-51

Session 4 (online ethnography)
June 11 (Monday) 2018
Theil building (directions) room CT-3

Session 5 (online ethnography)
June 12 (Tuesday) 2018
Sanders building (directions) room 1-10


Ethnography is a rich qualitative approach that is used in various disciplines within the social sciences and humanities, including sociology, anthropology, history, education and communication studies. This course provides an account of the background and basics of ethnography as well as developments and innovations within this approach.

Special attention will be paid to two relatively new variants within the ethnographic approach: auto-ethnography and digital ethnography. In auto-ethnography, researchers explore their personal experience based on self-reflective exercises and in relation to their wider socio-political environment. Digital ethnography focusses on people’s behaviour, relations and content on internet platforms.

Aims and working method

There are five sessions consisting of lectures, discussion and practical training.

Participants can choose to follow the entire course (2.5 ECTS) or opt for one 'track' (1 ECTS). The latter means that after the mandatory introduction session participants can choose to participate in either the auto-ethnography track (day 1, 2 and 3) or the online ethnography track (day 1, 4 and 5).

Participants will be informed well in advance by e-mail on how to prepare for the sessions. After completing the course, you will:

  • Understand how ethnographic research has historically developed;
  • Understand the theoretical and methodological challenges of the ethnographic research, including recruiting research participants, gaining access to research sites and the role of the researcher;
  • Know how to apply (one of) two innovative ethnographic methods: auto-ethnography and/or online ethnography.

Required skills

This course is designed for those with no or limited experience in ethnographic research generally, nor in auto-ethnography and online ethnography.

Session descriptions

  • Session 1:
    Introduction: Theoretical and methodological background and development of the field

    This day focusses on the theoretical and methodological backgrounds to ethnographic research in general, such as:

    • Methodological and epistemological considerations
    • Theoretical underpinnings of ethnographic research
    • General do’s and don’ts in the research cycle

    Furthermore this session will focus on the historical evolution of ethnography, by discussing

    • The historical development of the field
    • The highlight of seminal studies
    • Studies with ethnographic ‘intent’
    • Innovations in ethnography

  • Session 2 and 3:
    Auto-ethnography track

    Day two and three will focus on auto-ethnography as one of the innovative approaches in ethnography.

    • Background
    • Examples from the literature
    • The method of auto-ethnography: data collection and analysis
    • Hands-on exercises, presentation and discussion of own work (day 3)

  • Session 4 and 5:
    Online ethnography track

    Day four and five will discuss digital ethnography, a second innovative approach within the ethnographic method.

    • Background
    • Examples from the literature
    • The method of online ethnography: data collection and analysis
    • Hands-on exercises, presentation and discussion of own work (day 5)

Liesbet van Zoonen is professor of Sociology and dean of the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Her research covers a wide range of issues in the social sciences and humanities, but all concern the question whether and how popular culture is a relevant resource for civic understanding and social participation. Her work currently is focused on public and individual taboos and desires around ‘identity management’; research which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council of the UK.

Karen Lumsden is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Loughborough University. She is the author of Boy Racer Culture (Routledge, 2013), co-editor of Reflexivity in Criminological Research (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), and has published in journals including Sociology, British Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology, Qualitative Research, Policing & Society and Mobilities. She is on the Editorial Boards of Sociological Research Online and Sociology. Research interests include policing, victims, social media, ethnography and reflexivity.

Stefania Milan is Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam, and Associate Professor (II) of Media Innovation at the University of Oslo. Her work explores the intersection of digital technology, activism and governance, and she enjoys experimenting with digital and participatory methods. She is the Principal Investigator of the DATACTIVE project (, funded by a Starting Grant of the European Research Council. She is the author of ‘Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) and co-author of ‘Media/Society’ (Sage, 2011)