Ethnographic research is a methodology used in certain social sciences. While traditional research is largely quantitative and causal and concerns itself with large groups taken together, ethnographic research is primarily qualitative and focuses upon the individual members of a group and their perceptions, prejudices, experiences, and world view.
Ethnographic research often focuses upon questions such as:
- How do members of some particular group perceive or understand a certain social or cultural phenomenon?
- How is some practice socially constructed among its practitioners, partakers, or observers?
Ethnographic research draws principally upon individual accounts, interviews and narratives; it does not draw conclusion per se about the group from these individuals, nor does it propose straightforward answers to complex social problems. These properties have made it somewhat controversial among practicioners of more traditional research methods, and have sometimes made it difficult for such work to be published in interdisciplinary conferences and journals. (I say this having seen it from the inside at the NCUR conference and proceedings.)
As I peruse E2, it strikes me as a fabulous repository of ethnographic accounts; many writeups have an autobiographical quality that seeks to explore ideas, issues, and problems without necessarily making conclusions or judgements.