Ethnographic Study: Field Research in a Workplace Setting

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An ethnography, also referred to as field research, is a qualitative research method in which the researcher can directly observe what goes on at the research site as well as participate, including asking questions. It is a useful method for studying small groups, such as work groups, in their natural setting. Ethnography is the term used by cultural anthropologists for conducting field research. Sociologists tend to use the term field research or participant observation. Ethno means "people" and graphy means "to describe something." Ethnography is describing people and/or their culture from their perspectives. In other words, ethnography describes the meaning of the situation from the point of view of the participants. How do the participants under study make sense of the world in which they are participating? Ethnographers and field researchers are interested in explicit knowledge, which is a description of what happens, say, at a company holiday party. They are also interested in tacit knowledge, which includes the unspoken or taken-for-granted norms that govern a company holiday party, of which participants are usually unaware. In other words, field research takes place in a natural setting where the researcher attempts to understand the social meanings and different perspectives of the people whom the researcher is studying.

Guidelines

Suggested steps for carrying out an ethnographic project are as follows:

Prepare yourself by reading the relevant scholarly literature. Discover what other researchers have to say about the topic you are researching. Decide what field research role you will play. Will you be a complete observer? That is, will you gain access to the department and watch what goes on? Will you participate as a worker in the department while you observe what is going on? Will you be both an observer and a participant, watching and interviewing department employees? Review the research ethics of conducting field research. Information...
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