Ethnography: Definitions, Introduction, Key Informant, and Archival Research

Doorsteptutor material for competitive exams is prepared by world's top subject experts: get questions, notes, tests, video lectures and more- for all subjects of your exam.


  • Ethnographic studies focus on large cultural groups of people who interact over time. Ethnography is a set of qualitative methods that are used in social sciences that focus on the observation of social practices and interactions.
  • Ethnography is the production of highly detailed accounts of how people in a social setting lead their lives, based on systematic and long-term observation of, and conversations with, informants.


Literal meaning:

Ethno – cultural group

Graphy – a description of

  • A technique to describe a social group from the group՚s point of view
  • In-depth study of people, cultures, habits, and mutual differences.
  • Cultural knowledge of the natives studied by researcher
  • Related to ethnocentrism – to perceive others ′ culture from one ′ s own cultural viewpoint
  • Observing subjects in their natural environments or habitats
  • Researcher needs to become a full-time member of the group to understand their perspective
  • Qualitative techniques used
  • First-hand data
  • Also referred to as a thick description as it is in-depth
  • Used in the early stages to gather information
  • To see the world through the eyes of the actor
  • Includes participant observation and field study
  • Study of life of subjects in the research
  • Multi-dimensional research design that can be adapted to different fields
  • E. g. Market trends – Business ethnography
  • Interpretative Sociology to find reliable and testable results

Key Informant

  • Source of interview information
  • Acts as a link between researcher and group
  • A group member who helps the researcher to gain access to relevant information or events

Archival Research

  • Qualitative approach to ethnographic research
  • Analyzing existing research, documents, etc. for information about the research group
  • To discover information
  • To enhance understanding
  • Covert ethnography
  • Researchers do not reveal the true purpose of their presence among the group that they are observing.


  • Useful for examining social behaviour and interactions
  • Not be used in statistically valid analysis
  • Research-driven


Q. 1. First-hand study of a small group is called

(a) Ethnography

(b) Ethnomethodology

(c) Biography

(d) Sampling

Answer: (a)

Q. 2. Which of the following is a component of ethnographic research?

a) Being immersed in a social group or setting

b) Participant observation, interviews, and/or documentary analysis

c) A written account of an ethnographic study

d) All of the above

Answer: d

Q. 3. What is one of the main disadvantages of using the covert role in ethnography?

a) It can be hard to gain access to the social group

b) It is difficult to take notes without arousing suspicion

c) The problem of reactivity: people may change their behaviour if they know they are being observed

d) It is usually too time consuming and expensive to be a realistic option

Answer: B

Q. 4. What is the name of the role adopted by an ethnographer who joins in with the group՚s activities but admits to being a researcher?

a) Complete participant

b) Participant-as-observer

c) Observer-as-participant

d) Complete observer

Answer: B



#Ethnography (New 2019)


Developed by: