The key stages of ethnographic research are:

Research question

The research question is usually open-ended.

Participant observation

This involves the researcher also thinking about what is going on, and of serving members of the culture, whilst at the same time being a participant in the many experiences that take place within that culture

Making field notes

Field notes are notes that the researcher makes whilst being a participant.

They are made at the same time as the experience undergone, or the observation made, by the researcher.

They are not made at a later date.

Reflection and the writing up of field notes

Both during the participation, and afterwards, the researcher will reflect upon what they are experiencing and observing/have experienced and observing/observed during that time as a participant within the culture.

Away from the members of the culture under study, the researcher will need to write-up the notes that have been made in the field, and try to make some order and some sense out of them.

This will help the development of the choices in terms of what the researcher will participate in and what further contacts will be made with members of the culture.


Interviewing can be formal - in that the researcher will sit down with a series of questions and formally interview one or more members of the group/culture.

Alternatively, interviewing can be informal - in this case, the researcher will interview members of the group or culture informally, as if they were just talking to them, whilst at the same time having a good idea of the questions that require to be asked.

Interpretation of interviews

Once an interview (whether it be formal or informal) has taken place, it is imperative that the researcher writes down the interview (or transcribes it, if it has been recorded) before not only the words have been forgotten, but also gestures and facial expressions, etc.

The interviews then need to be analysed and interpreted

Writing up the ethnographic research.

Following the end of the research study, it is important that it is written up in journals and/or a book, as well as being presented at conferences, etc.