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Ethnographic Methods

Loosely speaking, an ethnography is what you write-up as a result of participant observation, where you do a combination of interviewing, observing and perhaps working alongside a group that you are studying.



  • interviewing

  • observation

  • qual vs quant

  • inductive theorizing



  • Emily's presentation [pdf]


  • Goodwin, C. Professional Vision. [pdf]
  • James Spradley. The Ethnographic Interview. Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch College Publishers. 0-03-044496-9 (whole book)
  • Flanagan, JC 1954. The critical incident technique. Pych Bull 51: 28-35. [pdf]
  • Sutton, R.I. and A. Rafaeli. 1988. "Untangling the relationship between displayed emotions and organizational sales: The case of convenience stores." Academy of Management Journal. 31(3):461-487. [pdf




About Ethnographic Methods

  • Katz, Jack. 1997. “Ethnography’s Warrants.” Sociological Methods and Research 25:391-421.

  • Burawoy, Michael 1991. “The Extended Case Method. Pp. 271-300 in Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Modern Metropolis. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

  • Goldthrope, John H. 2000. “Sociological Ethnography Today: Problems and Possibilities.” Pp. 65-93 in On Sociology: Numbers, Narratives, and the Integration of Research and Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • Duneier, Mitchell. 2002. “What Kind of Combat Sport is Sociology?” American Journal of Sociology 107: 1551-1576.

  • Karen Golden-Biddle and Karen Locke. 1993. Appealing Work: An Investigation of How Ethnographic Texts Convince Organization Science, Vol. 4, No. 4 (Nov), pp. 595-616 [^pdf]

Management Exemplars

  • Barley, Stephen R. "Technology as an Occasion for Structuring Evidence from Observations of CT Scanners and the Social order of Radiology Departments", Administrative Science Quarterly, V31, N1, (March 1986), pp. 78-108.

  • Uzzi, B. 1996.The sources and consequences of embeddedness for the economic performance of organizations: the network effect. American Sociological Review 61: 674-698 [pdf] (focus on the qualitative bit)

  • Orlikowski, W. "Integrated Information Environment or Matrix of Control? The Contradictory Implications of Information Technology", Accounting, Management and Information Technologies, V1, N1, (1991), pp. 9-42.

  • Markus, M. Lynne "Electronic Mail as the Medium of Managerial Choice", Organization Science, V5 (1994), pp. 502-527.

Sociology Exemplars

  • Whyte, W. F. (1955). Street Corner Society: The Social Structure of an Italian Slum. (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Whyte describes what became one of the classic studies of qualitative sociology. His study took place in an Italian slum in an eastern city in the late 1930s. He describes some of the forces that shaped people's lives in that context. This book is remembered not only because of his detailed ethnographic descriptions, but because of a methodological appendix in which he frankly, and at length, discusses his ethnographic method. Still relevant today, his description of his learning "on the job" and the ethical issues he encountered in extended fieldwork are a must read for anybody contemplating ethnography in the urban US or any urban society.


  • Sackmann, SA 1991. Uncovering culture in organizations. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 27: 295-317
  • Ryan & Martinez. 1996 Can we predict what mothers do?: Modeling childhood diarrhea in rural Mexico. Human Organization 55(1):47-57 [pdf]
  • Gladwin. Ethnographic decision modeling. Sage
  • Fine, G. A., & Elsbach, K. D. (2000). Ethnography and Experiment in Social Psychological Theory Building. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 36, 51-76
  • Lewis, M. Liar's Poker. An informal ethnographic account of Salomon Brothers during the 80s.


Send mail to sborgatti@uky.edu with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 2008 by Steve Borgatti. Last modified: 08/11/09.



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