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Ethnographic Research


Ethnography practitioners study people and their cultures, whereas observational research involves no interaction; ethnography researchers will interact with the "research subject". Interaction with the research subject is essential because ethnographic researchers want to study things from the "research subject's" point of view. The duration and method of ethnographic research depends on the researcher's objective.

What Does Ethnographic Research Involve?

The key to ethnographic research is that it takes place in the research subject's own environment/living space. The research is usually undertaken where the respondents live and work, so researchers can get a real understanding of their daily behaviour and (if the research is being undertaken for marketing purposes) how these behaviours may impact on purchase decisions.

Ethnographic research includes observations, photographs, videos, interviews; essentially anything that records the subjects behaviour and how they think/feel in their own environment whether that's at home, work or whilst socialising/relaxing. It may involve observing the use of a product in a home, then asking respondents their views and opinions towards the use of this product. For example how easy was it to use the product, what needs to be changed, do they like how it looks, and would they buy it. Interviewing subjects whilst they are in a specific setting or situation is known as a contextual interview.

Example Users of Ethnographic Research

The mobile phone industry use Ethnographic research, it has helped them to appreciate that a mobile phone is an integral part of the user's daily life. For example a mobile phone is no longer just for making phone calls, it is

In fact with the extensive range of mobile phone applications available on the market, mobile phone uses are now unlimited.

Nintendo's Wii was developed using ethnographic research; the aim of the Wii was to provide families with a tool to play together just as traditional board games did in the past. The success of Wii spurred Microsoft into launching Kinnect (the add on) for the Xbox 360.

Ethnographic Research Disadvantages

Ethnographic Research Disadvantages


To summarise ethnographic research provides an insight into customer behaviours not just at a specific point in time but through the duration and use of the product and this helps marketers to shape future products and services.


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