This chapter explores the potential and challenges of bringing together variationist and ethnographic approaches to sociolinguistic research, illustrated through reflection on the experiences of the authors, an ethnographer and a variationist, carrying out a research project focussing on urban language and identity with young people in a Pupil Referral Unit. It begins with an overview of the development of ethnographic and variationist traditions in sociolinguistics, identifying differences in the aims of the two approaches and in their underlying assumptions. Their different research methods are described, and the challenges of combining ethnographic and variationist data sets are identified. The chapter reviews a range of studies which have brought together elements from both approaches. It shows how terms like ‘identity’ or ‘communities of practice’, when used as analytic categories, can be understood quite differently from within the two traditions, and identifies specific challenges from a variationist perspective around working with the complex data sets generated by ethnographic research. A detailed example of the use of th-stopping is provided to illustrate the potential contribution of the two approaches, how they can be brought together, and where they are incompatible. The chapter ends with a reflection on the changes required to fruitfully combine the two approaches.