5 Criteria You Must Consider When Conducting Ethnographic Research

CiviCom MRS
Mar 17, 2021

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Ethnographic research determines how people interact with each other in a specific environment. This form of research usually requires that a researcher integrate themselves into the environment, typically playing a role of a bystander who witnesses the events taking place in real-time. There are no limitations to where ethnographic research can take place, as long as it is accomplished in locations where people habitually live, work, or otherwise interact. 

How researchers integrate themselves into environments for ethnographic research varies depending on the purpose of the study. But with the advent of digital solutions, the versatility with which they can seamlessly blend themselves into the background has steadily increased. Mobile and video ethnography are often at the forefront of this movement, with smartphones, tablets, and computers allowing researchers to tap into developing platforms and solutions that allow for interviews to be done with camera and microphone equipment that is readily available for participants. Other market research service facilitators even offer their own mobile ethnography camera equipment that facilities and clients can set up themselves.

For an in-depth look into the different technologies available for ethnographic research, check out Civicom® Marketing Research Services. If you need more information on how to implement this type of research for your project needs, here are 5 criteria that you should look out for. 

5 Criteria For Implementing Ethnographic Research

          1. Identify Your Research Questions

What is the objective behind your research? There are ideas and behaviors you’re yearning to understand and that is why you’ve chosen ethnographic research. Break up your objectives into main and sub-categories and then base your questions around them. Main categories are questions with answers that you need to know and subcategories are questions with answers that you believe would be nice to know but are not heavily influential to the success of your study. At the end of the day, what you should be left with are the questions that lead you to the right answers you’re searching for.

  1.            2. Determine Best Locations for Research

A benefit of ethnographic research is its capability for mobility. Technology has made it possible for researchers to conduct studies anywhere around the globe if circumstances permit. But this is when it’s best to err on the side of caution. Identifying the objective behind your research in the first step should already give you a glimpse into the target audience you’re aiming to campaign for. Focus on them and don’t get distracted by the possibilities of other markets. You’ll have plenty of time to expand your efforts once you’ve laid out the groundwork.

  1.            3. Formulate The Most Effective Presentation Methods

The presentation method you choose often determines how you will obtain information. There are two types of presentation methods available for market research: participant observation, and structured observation. Participant observation is the observation of the subject of research either by participating directly in the action or as a “pure” observer which entails being present on the scene without directly influencing any course of action. Structured observation is more detached, more systematic, and what is observed often has a more mechanical quality. It is also a quantitative as opposed to a qualitative technique, concerned with quantifying behavior as opposed to obtaining a rich description.

  1.            4. Acquire Permissions and Access

Ethnographic research can be intrusive and as a result, it is necessary to obtain permission for access to the location you plan to research. NDAs and consent forms may also be necessary for the participants involved to ensure that they’re aware of what they are signing up for as respondents. Always obtain permission in writing. That way records can be traced and easily referred to if disputes arise. Last but not least, let decision-makers know what your observational methods will be, how you plan to participate, how the information you collect will be used, and so forth. Being ethical and considerate is critically important, especially in the age of the GDPR and HIPAA.

      1.            5. Code and Analyze Data
                   It’s important to code your data in a way that complements your observations. The goal is to analyze and summarize what you learn so it can be easily distributed to               your team. Labeling through time signatures and tags, sorting by patterns, separating outliers, comparing theories, and storyboarding are great ways to simplify the                 data for all. And, as always, transcriptions of sessions can do wonders for reviewing those moments that you might have missed out on.Want to learn more about organizing your data? Read on the best practices for organizing your audio and video data for efficient market and ethnographic research. If you’re ready to get started, book a project with Civicom® Marketing Research Services, a global leader in web-enabled technology solutions.

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