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Unit Overview


Ethnography, or participant observation, is an established method across the social sciences. This unit explores the production of ethnographic data and its uses across a range of social contexts. In a seminar setting, students read and analyse a range of examples of ethnographic research, and the theory behind this methodological approach. The unit may explore the following: (1) the connection of explanatory theories to methods of research; (2) methods of studying and interpreting everyday life—participant observation (everyday life as field research), questioning, recording, note-taking; (3) eliciting and interpreting accounts of social life—semi-structured interviews, questionnaires, genealogies, family histories, participatory social research; (4) observing and interpreting categories and symbols; (5) using information technology resources to source methods and explanations; (6) engaging with innovative and interdisciplinary research methodologies and issues; and (7) how to use ethnography to engage in cross-cultural analysis. Students have an opportunity to engage in ethnographic research as part of the unit.

6 points

Students are able to (1) apply the key conceptual and methodological aspects of ethnography; (2) use ethnographic research skills; (3) engage with the range of ethnographic methodologies and appreciate their relevance to the practice of social research; (4) problematise assumptions about cause and meaning in social science; (5) defend the value of the qualitative program in social science; (6) demonstrate understanding of how ethnographers engage with unusual situations and address ill-defined problems; (7) demonstrate understanding of ethical issues for the practice of ethnography; (8) undertake theoretically informed participant observation; and (9) develop a written and oral capacity to present clear, well-documented arguments, drawing on both theory and empirical material.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a research essay; (2) an ethnographic exercise; and (3) participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Associate Professor Martin Forsey
Unit rules
ANTH3001 Advanced Qualitative Methods: Ethnography
Advisable prior study
for Social Research Methods students: ANTH4103 Knowing Social Realities: Theoretical Foundations, SOCS5003 Research Design, SOCS5005 Social Research Ethics
Contact hours
up to 3 hours per week
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  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.