702 Ethnographic Research Methods

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

702 Ethnographic Research Methods takes research methods as philosophically and practically exciting techniques and attitudes that allow us to know and understand the world better. To know anthropological research methodology is better to understand the self, which is to better understand anthropological research methodology.

The material addresses the history and foundations of anthropological knowledge, and describes some of the key concepts in anthropological methodology by using 'ethnographic writing' as a guide. The module encourages self-reflexivity, ethical conduct, and an anticipatory awareness of research practice and design. We explore ideas such as participant observation, the field, fieldwork, fieldnotes, interviewing and the ways in which scales of knowledge (local and global) can be brought into conversation through well-thought through methodology.

Our aim is to encourage excellent, thoughtful and ethical research, through exploring key epistemological debates (how we know things), the nature of qualitative research data, and the conditions of its production.

The module includes practical sessions (e.g., on interview technique) and short fieldwork assignments to generate critical awareness among students of their own 'research personality' and the assumptions they bring to questions as researchers.

Topics covered include:

  • anthropology, ethnography and the making of ethnographic methods
  • ethnographic fieldwork, participant-observation and the 'tacit dimension'
  • the anthropological self
  • interviewing, biography and life histories;
  • visual and auditory methods in anthropological research
  • multi-sited research and the changing ethnographic 'field'
  • research ethics
  • researching 'big stuff' in 'small ways'
  • research design and proposal writing
  • making sense of the world through anthropological research


This module is a cornerstone of all of our postgraduate degree programmes in Anthropology and is key for dissertation preparation. It also attracts students from across SOAS and professional settings (particularly NHS and local authorities) who wish to incorporate more refined anthropological methodologies into their research practices.



Compulsory module for all students on:

  • MA Social Anthropology
  • MA Social Anthropology + Intensive Language
  • MA Anthropology of Food
  • MA Anthropology of Food+ Intensive Language
  • MA Anthropology of Global Futures and Sustainability
  • MA Medical Anthropology and Mental Health

Compulsory audit or guided option (List C) for students on:

  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies
  • MA Migration & Diaspora Studies + Intensive Language

This module is also a School-wide Open Option. No prerequisites.


Suggested reading

Representative Readings:

  • Borneman, J. and Abdullah Hammoudi (eds) 2017. Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of Truth. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • 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.
  • Skinner, J. 2012. The Interview: An Ethnographic Approach. London: Berg.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules