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Research Design for Visual Ethnography


Admission requirements

Only students admitted to the master’s programme Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology specialisation Visual Ethnography can take part in this course. (See master's admission and application)

N.B.: Completing this course is required to start your Visual Ethnographic Fieldwork, Thesis Seminar CADS VE and Master Thesis Project CADS.

Course Description

This course aims to prepare students for the practical and epistemological complexities of conducting fieldwork through a visual ethnography paradigm. The course enables students to develop skills recording images and sound through a series of multimodal units in order to conceptually and practically utilize audiovisual methodologies in their thesis research projects. This course combines theory with practice by placing great emphasis on hands-on training. The course is intended to make students aware of the affordances and limitations of audiovisual methods and recordings. Students develop these skills alongside the development of an original research proposal, while considering issues related to ethics, epistemology, and methodological experimentation in relation to their individual fieldwork topics. Emphasis will be given to research design, methodological operationalization, negotiating relationships, facilitating collaborations, knowledge production, and data management of each student’s masters project. This course is team-taught and coordinated with supervisory group feedback sessions.
A list of possible research topics per specialisation is available on our website and is being permanently updated.

The course Research Design encompasses a mandatory ‘Methodology in Practice’ (MiP) week, which is intended to provide students with hands-on training with respect to ethnographic method. See details below, under Timetable.

Course Objectives

  1. Helping the MSc student to systematically formulate questions central to their research, positioned in relation to relevant academic debates.
  2. Providing practical preparations for the complexities of fieldwork, given the operationalization of research questions.
  3. Critically exploring the possibilities offered by audiovisual means, in relation to both conducting anthropological fieldwork and producing empirically-based audiovisual research outputs.

Financial matters

**Methodology in Practice week*

The Methodology in Practice week is a mandatory part of the course Research Design. It will take place from Monday 9 October until Friday 13 October 2023 and will demand a full-time participation, from 08:00 AM - evening.

The MiP week includes a four-day stay in Amsterdam; the fifth day will be in Leiden. During the stay food (vegan/vegetarian) and drinks (non-alcoholic) will be provided by the Institute CADS. 6-10 bed dormitories on location are available and will be (substantially) sponsored by the Institute CADS. If you want to make use of this accommodation, we demand a contribution of 50 euro per person (for three nights), to be paid before 5 October 2023. Further details will follow in September 2023.

Equipment for VE students

Students are required to make and edit audio-visual materials during the entire course of the Master’s. They can borrow filming equipment from Leiden University and use its facility to edit their work. Whether they use personal or Leiden University’s equipment, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure they will complete the required coursework.

The Social Sciences Faculty has limited editing computers in its facilities, and the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and Development Sociology has a limited number of semi-professional HD cameras available, including professional audio sets. The Institute’s equipment may be loaned for field research after completion of a skill test and payment of a loan fee. This equipment is to be used during training tutorials and will be distributed to students for use during their fieldwork based on an equipment request procedure. Specific equipment needs will be made in consultation with supervisors and the programme coordinator. If demand exceeds available resources, we will arrange for sharing of equipment. Students are responsible for the safety and care of any equipment in their possession and will be held liable for any preventable damage.


Please see the schedule

Methodology in Practice

The course Research Design encompasses a mandatory ‘Methodology in Practice’ (MiP) week, which is intended to provide students with hands-on training in the ethnographic method. The MiP week will take place in October, and lasts four full days (including evenings) from Monday morning until Thursday evening, with two additional sessions on Friday at daytime. Typically, mornings will be used for short lectures in methodology and ethics, while afternoons will be dedicated to individual methodological exercises, which are then evaluated in the evenings. Further details will be announced in early September.

Mode of instruction

Total: 5 ECTS = 140 study hours (sbu):

  • Tutorials:
    o Online instructional modules
    o Hands-on workshops
    o Student screening/feedback sessions
    o Written & audiovisual assignments
    o Peer review

  • Course activities will be supplemented with thesis supervision group meetings.

Assessment method

There are four main criteria by which students will be evaluated:

  • Research Proposal Assignments (40%): This consists of five written assignments, which will be marked ‘plus’ or ‘minus’. If you receive a ‘minus’ on an assignment it must be resubmitted. Assessment will consider four main factors: a) how well you met the parameters of the assignments, b) the coherence of your message, c) the complexity of your text, and d) constructive review of peer assignments. A final graded assessment will take into account your overall investment and development of research ideas over the semester.

  • Multimodal Assignment (30%): A series of assignments meant to put your skills into practice, which will be marked ‘plus’ or ‘minus’. If you receive a ‘minus’ on an assignment it must be resubmitted. A final graded assessment will consider five main factors: a) how well you met the parameters of the assignments, b) the level of effort to master technical skills, c) the overall engagement with your field site and topic, d) an effort to experiment with different formal aspects, and e) constructive review of peer assignments. A final graded assessment will take into account your overall investment and development of research skills over the semester.

  • Authenticity test (10%): Students are required to take a plagiarism and authenticity test. A pass for this assessment test is mandatory.

  • Field Journal (10%): Students are required to keep an ongoing ‘field journal’ through the year that specifically reflects on tutorial exercises, field studies, and method reflections. Assessment will consider four main factors: a) demonstrates depth of engagement with the course materials, b) provides the appropriate basis for keeping a journal while conducting Master’s research, c) makes at least three 1-page entries each week, d) each entry is at least 100-words long or provide the equivalent level of attention in drawing, mapping, or alternative kinds of engagement

  • Feedback to peers (10%): Students are required to engage with each other work and provide constant feedback tot heir peers’ improvements. Feedback requires participation in class and reading assignments online.

  • Non-submitted assignments or feedback will count as a fail.

  • Participation: The student’s engagement during class time is evaluated on punctuality and interaction. Students are expected to be on time, stay for the entire time, and be actively engaged in the activities of the day. Those factors will be considered when accounting for the student’s overall investment in the course. More than 2 absences will result in failure of the course.

Registration in My Studymap

Registration for the lectures in My Studymap is mandatory for all students. Registration closes 5 days before the start of the course. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

NB. Once the workgroup division is determined by the course coordinator, the SSC will enroll the students to the specific workgroups they are assigned to. After this, the schedules in MyTimetable will also show the dates, times, and rooms of the tutorials.

Confirming your exams

Students need not register for the examination via My Studymap, because this course does not include a single final examination.


Brightspace is the digital learning environment of Leiden University. The Brightspace module for this course will be available for registration by the end of August. Brightspace gives access to course announcements and electronic study material. Assignments will also be submitted in Brightspace. Brightspace informs students about announcements and changes in the course. Students are advised to check Brightspace on a daily base to remain informed about rooms, schedules, deadlines, and details regarding assignments. Lecturers assume that all students read information posted on Brightspace.

  • How to login
    The homepage for Brightspace is:
    Please log in with your ULCN-account and personal password. On the left you will see an overview of My Courses.
    To get access to your courses in Brightspace you need to be registered in My Studymap for these courses.

Course Literature

Barbash, I., and L. Taylor (1997) Cross-Cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making Documentary and Ethnographic Films and Videos. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Grasseni, Cristina, Bart Barendregt, Erik de Maaker, Federico De Musso, Andrew Littlejohn, Marianne Maeckelbergh, Metje Postma, and Mark R. Westmoreland. 2021. Audiovisual and Digital Ethnography. London and New York: Routledge.

Lawrence, A. 2020. Filmmaking for Fieldwork: A Practical Handbook. Manchester University Press.

An additional selection of relevant journal articles. These will be available for downloading through the university library or via Brightspace (to be announced).
A series of films related to a student’s project should be selected from the Ethnographic Video volumes available through the university library.
Online training modules.


Dr. Federico De Musso Dr. Mark Westmoreland Dr. Benjamin Fogarty Dr. S.R.J.J. Hölsgens