ABSTRACT

Ethnographic research is a special methodology that suggests we learn about people’s lives (or aspects of their lives) from their own perspective and from within the context of their own lived experience. This involves not only talking to them and asking questions (as we do in surveys and interviews) but also learning from them by observing them, participating in their lives, and asking questions that relate to the daily life experience as we have seen and experienced it. It involves doing this over time, taking mental and actual notes as we go along, and collecting other relevant data through interviews (or talk) and the collection of artefacts, statistics and whatever else may be relevant. The main method of ethnography is known as participant observation, and it is very distinctive as a method. This chapter considers what participant observation actually consists of, including gaining access, taking time, learning the language, participation and observation, and taking notes; it then goes on to look at the dialectic relationship between participation and observation in the practice of fi eldwork. This chapter also considers rapport, intimacy and confl ict, teamwork, the notion of fi eld-walking and the limits of ethnography.