SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnographic Research Methods

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 1

This course provides a post-graduate level introduction to the various methods of enquiry and interpretation used in anthropological research. After introducing students to the building blocks of ethnographic methods, including participant-observation, interviewing, audio-visual methods and multi-sited research, it explores the relation between research design and research methods with the aim of introducing students to good research practice. The course familiarises students with key debates about the status of anthropological research data and the conditions of its production. The course is intended to provide methodological support for students’ MA dissertation writing.

Topics covered include:

  • anthropology, ethnography and the making of ethnographic methods;
  • ethnographic fieldwork, participant-observation and the ‘tacit dimension’;
  • interviewing, biography and life histories;
  • visual and auditory methods in anthropological research;
  • multi-sited research and the changing ethnographic ‘field’;
  • research ethics;
  • research design and proposal writing;
  • reflexivity, home and away;
  • ethnographic analysis – field notes, transcription, coding.

The course includes various practical sessions (e.g., on interview technique) and short fieldwork assignments to generate critical awareness among students of their own observational and data recording processes.

Note: Not open to students enrolled in 15PANC011, “Research Methods in Anthropology”

Method of assessment

There is no exam for this course. 100% course assessment is through two assignments: (a) a mini-ethnography based on participant observation (2,500 words), and (b) the preparation of a research proposal (2,500 words). 

Suggested reading

  • Bernard, H.R. 2011. Research Methods in Anthropology, Fifth Edition. Alta Mira: London.
  • Borneman, J. and A. Hammoudi (eds) 2009. Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of Truth. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Davies, C. A. 1999. Reflexive Ethnography: A Guide to Researching Selves and Others. London: Routledge.
  • Gupta, A. and J. Ferguson (eds) 1997. Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Hammersley, M. 2014. Reading Ethnographic Research: A Critical Guide. London: Routledge.
  • Hammersley, M. and P. Atkinson. 2007. Ethnography: Principles in Practice, Third Edition. Abingdon: Routledge
  • Okely, J. 2012. Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Robben, A. C. G. M. and J. A. Sluka (eds) 2012. Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader, Second Edition. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Sanjek, R. (ed.) 1990. Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Skinner, J. 2012. The Interview: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Berg.


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