Ethnography

Ethnography is a scientific research strategy often used in the field of social sciences, particularly in anthropology and in some branches of sociology, also known as part of historical science that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. It is often employed for gathering empirical data on human societies and cultures. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a “field study” or a “case report,” both of which are used as common synonyms for “ethnography”.

Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, ethnographic research methods began to be widely employed by communication scholars. Studies such as Gerry Philipsen’s analysis of cultural communication strategies in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Speaking ‘Like a Man’ in Teamsterville, paved the way for the expansion of ethnographic research in the study of communication.

Scholars of communication studies use ethnographic research methods to analyze communication behaviors, seeking to answer the “why” and “how come” questions of human communication. Often this type of research results in a case study or field study such as an analysis of speech patterns at a protest rally or the way firemen communicate during “down time” at a fire station. Like anthropology scholars, communication scholars often immerse themselves, participate in and/or directly observe the particular wikt:social group being studied.