SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Ethnography in Practice

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

Please note: For those who begin their degree in September 2018, Ethnography in Practice is not compulsory in the second year. For those who shall begin their degree in September 2019, this module IS compulsory in the second year.

This module introduces students to the methods of social anthropology, past and present, and the practicalities of doing ethnographic research today. What is the basis of anthropological knowledge? How is anthropological research conducted? What is anthropological ‘data’? What is the relationship between ethnographic research and ethnographic writing? Students will learn to read ethnographic texts with a critical mind, asking whether and how scholars make their methods and processes of interpretation explicit in their writing. How are arguments developed? What is explained, and how? What is left out? Through designing and carrying out a mini-ethnography, students will explore hands-on the changing nature of ‘the field’ for ethnographers, anthropological ethics, interpretation, representation, and knowledge itself.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. The successful student will have a good understanding of anthropological methods and their possibilities and limitations to make general and comparative claims.
  2. They will be able to undertake fieldwork and everything that this entails: from research proposal to ethics review and risk assessment, data collection, analysis and writing up.
  3. They will have an understanding of the ethical implications of doing research among human subjects.
  4. They will have an understanding of what is feasible as an ISP and what is not.

The majority of modules are focused on theory and do not contain the practical element of fieldwork, which is crucial to anthropology as a discipline. This module provides both methodological background and practical instructions in how to conduct fieldwork.


  • 2-hour seminars every week
  • 30-minute fieldwork

Scope and syllabus

The course covers the following: history of anthropological methods, fieldwork and
participant observation, interviewing, research ethics, visual research techniques,
biographic and life history methods, research proposal writing, multi-sited methods, and
discussion of the methodological implications of the so-called ‘Writing Culture’ debate.

Method of assessment

Ethnographic Research Plan (500 words) (20%), Fieldwork Report (2500 words) (70%), and Seminar Participation (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Hviding, E. and C. Berg (eds) 2014. The Ethnographic Experiment: A. M. Hocart and W. H. R. Rivers in Island Melanesia, 1908. New York and Oxford: Berghahn.
  • Stocking, G.W. (ed.) Observers Observed: Essays on Ethnographic Fieldwork. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • Bernard, R. 2000. Research Methods in Anthropology. Oxford: Altamira.
  • Booth, W., G. Colomb, and J. Williams. 2008. The Craft of Research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Cresswell, J. 2008. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches, Third Edition. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
  • Armbruster, H., & Lærke, A. 2008. Taking sides: Ethics, Politics and Fieldwork in Anthropology. New York: Berghahn Books.
  • Caplan, P. 2003. The Ethics of Anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas. Routledge.
  • Okely, J. 2012. Anthropological Practice: Fieldwork and the Ethnographic Method. London and New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Hammersley, M. and P. Atkinson. 2007. Ethnography: Principles in Practice, Third Edition. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Skinner, J. (ed.) The Interview: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Amit, V. (ed.) 2000. Constructing the Field: Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Contemporary World. London and New York: Routledge.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules