SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

Research Methods in Anthropology

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

This is the year-long core course for the MA Anthropological Research Methods. Enrolment is limited to students on that MA programme. For a methods option course, see Ethnographic Research Methods.

This course provides a post-graduate level introduction to the various methods of enquiry and interpretation used in anthropological research. In the first term, 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.

First term topics 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.

During the second term, students will attend the Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Social Research course in the Department of Politics and International Studies.


This course is open only to students on the MA Anthropological Research Methods.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • By the end of the course, students will have acquired knowledge of a range of research methods in anthropology.
  • They will have acquired a critical awareness of the theoretical assumptions, problems and potential misuse of such methods.
  • Through practical exercises and participant observation experience they will have gained an understanding of their own capacities for the collection and recording of ethnographic data.
  • They will have acquired understanding of how to set out a research proposal (for example for grant application purposes).
  • Students will gain a capacity for conceptual and ethical reflection on anthropological research.

This grasp of method, epistemology and ethics will enable students to write their dissertations (15,000 words), and progress towards post-graduate research should they choose to do so.

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.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules