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Qualitative Research Methods: Ethnographic Methods


Admission requirements

This is a required methodology course for the International Development major.


This course in qualitative research methods focuses on the range of data collection and analysis approaches encompassed by “ethnographic methods.” Ethnography is the study of culture(s) through participant-observation, interviews, and other methods standard in “fieldwork.” Ethnographic research is carried out by researchers who become temporary participants in the social settings they decide to study. Ethnographic data analysis allows the researchers to understand and communicate to others the symbolic and contextual meanings that belie the routines and practices of everyday life. Doing ethnography in other cultures means that the researcher has to understand and sensitively represent the “insider” perspective of the members of that culture. Doing ethnography in one’s own culture means that the researcher has to “make the familiar strange” and illuminate and explicate the implicit aspects of culture that are taken for granted. Students will learn an array of practical qualitative methods that comprise the ethnographic approach, through a study of relevant literature, and through undertaking a six-week ethnographic research project in Den Haag, or in its surroundings. In addition to field methods, students will learn how discourse analysis, media analysis, and policy analysis are incorporated into ethnographic research.

Course objectives

By the end of the course, the students will

  1. Gain knowledge of and insight into the range of ethnographic methods of data collection and analysis
  2. Learn how to articulate research objectives and approaches tailored to specific research questions
  3. Master qualitative research skills like sampling, interviewing, participant-observation, writing field notes, etcetera
  4. Learn to critically reflect on research design
  5. Have an understanding of research ethics when working with human subjects, including concepts of informed consent, transparency, and accountability


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

This course will have theoretical and practical components. Each week the students will focus on a specific aspect of ethnographic research, or on a specific qualitative method. At the same time, after the first week of the course, each student will find a field site where they will conduct ethnographic research until the end of week 7, putting into practice the theoretical knowledge they will gain each week. The course will take place in a seminar format. In-class time will be divided between short lectures on methodology, discussions of readings, and reports from the field, peer feedback, and general “workshopping” of the students’ ongoing ethnographic projects.

Assessment method

The students will be assessed based on their consistent engagement with the theoretical and practical aspects of the course, reflected by their in-class participation during discussions of the reading, and their ongoing ethnographic work, reflected by their weekly web postings, and their in-class discussion of their own ethnographic project, and peer feedback on the projects of other students. They will also be assessed on their eventual ability to report and reflect on their own research process, as expressed in a final in-class presentation that will take place during week 7, and their holistic integration of the theoretical and applied knowledge gained in the course, as well as their writing skills, as demonstrated in the writing of their final ethnographic report.

  1. Interactive engagement with theoretical and practical course assignments: assessed through In-class participation including in-class “reports from the field” (20% of final grade):Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7
  2. Consistent individual fieldwork: assessed through Weekly web-postings
    (200-300 words; 20% of final grade):Weeks 1 – 7 Mondays at 23:59
  3. Ability to report and reflect on the research process: assessed through In-class presentation (20% of final grade):Week 7
  4. Holistic understanding and application of methods learned; synthesis of course literature and individual fieldwork: assessed in Final ethnographic report (2500-3000 words; 40% of final grade): Due Week 8, Friday at 17:00


This course is supported by a BlackBoard site

Reading list

Students should purchase a copy of “Ethnography Step-by-Step: Third Edition” by David M. Fetterman (SAGE Publications). Additional readings will be provided in an electronic format.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information

Weekly Overview

Week 1

Introduction, methods overview, selecting a fieldsite

Week 2

Ethics in research with human subjects

Week 3

Participant-observation, writing field notes

Week 4

Questionnaire design and administration

Week 5

Semi-structured interviews and life history interviews

Week 6

Data analysis: coding, content analysis, patterns; context analysis integration (discourse analysis, media analysis)

Week 7

In-class presentations, preparing to write the final ethnographic report