Ethnography investigates social phenomena by observing them in their natural environment ("natural setting"). The researcher participates in the everyday life of the target group for a certain period of time. Overall, however, ethnography is inconsistently described in the literature.


The method tries to gain knowledge that allows conclusions for a specific purpose. In software production, for example, usability is an important factor. A button may be placed in a suboptimal location, and only through observation does it become clear that the user finds it more optimal in a different location.


Conducting ethnography usually involves the following steps:

  1. Conceptualization: considering the choice of topic and defining the research area.
  2. Preparation: gathering background information and developing a research plan.
  3. Fieldwork: conducting observations and interviews with the individuals and groups to be studied.
  4. Data analysis: reviewing, classifying, and interpreting the data collected.
  5. Reporting: presenting findings in the form of reports, presentations, or publications.

It is essential that ethnographers adopt a reflexive stance and consciously reflect on their own role as researchers and their relationships with the individuals and groups under study.


Core literature

  1. "Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography" (1986) by James Clifford and George Marcus.
  2. "The Interpretation of Cultures" (1973) by Clifford Geertz
  3. "Ethnography: Step by Step" (1979) by David M. Fetterman
  4. "The Ethnographic Interview" (2007) by Rosalind Shaw
  5. "How to Do Ethnography" (2018) by Paul Atkinson, Amanda Coffey, Sara Delamont, and John Lofland
  6. "Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader" (2001) edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben and Jeffrey A. Sluka
  7. "Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture" (1973) by Clifford Geertz.

These books provide comprehensive insights into the theory and practice of ethnography, including methods and techniques of data collection and analysis, as well as ethical considerations.