801 Research Methods in Anthropology

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This advanced seminar, held specifically and exclusively for MRes and MPhil students in Anthropology, 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


Compulsory for students on:

  • MRes Social Anthropology
  • MRes Social Anthropology + Intensive Language

Also attended by first-year students on:

  • MPhil Anthropology and Sociology

This module is open only to students on the above programmes.

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.

Suggested reading

Representative readings:

  • Borneman, John. and Abdullah Hammoudi (eds). 2017. Being There: The Fieldwork Encounter and the Making of Truth. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Bourdieu, Pierre (and others). 2000. The Weight of the World: Social Suffering in Contemporary Society. Cambridge: Polity 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