2,500 word written essay
For this coursework you must undertake a small-scale ethnographic research project. The aims of this exercise are to assess your abilities to:
- undertake a qualitative study using ethnographic techniques;
- develop a preliminary analysis of your data;
- discuss the methodological issues that arise in selecting particular research methods and in undertaking qualitative research.
To successfully accomplish the coursework, you will:
- identify a setting in which to undertake your research;
- undertake fieldwork in that setting; that is undertake detailed observation
- where relevant and appropriate gather supplementary data for example take
- photographs, recordings, and/or informal interviews
- make detailed field notes about the setting and the activities you observe;
- identify two or three key themes or issues;
- organise your observations or findings with respect to these themes or issues;
- support the observations or findings with evidence from your field notes (and where
- other data you have collected);
- discuss the implications of your findings for future research and practice.
We do not wish to restrict the kinds of activity you may study. Therefore, you can choose to observe any organisation or social setting. This may be one with which you are familiar or one you are interested in. In previous years students have undertaken studies in a diverse range of settings including those in workplaces, public places and the home. It is also up to you to identify an aspect of social behaviour on which to focus.
In the past examples of what students have focussed on include: informal interaction in an office; the work of security staff in an accommodation block; how receptionists greet customers; the ways customers justify returning goods they have bought; customer behaviour in show rooms for luxury goods; conversations with hairdressers, waiting behaviour in stations; how street performers maintain an audience; how visitors to a museum inspect exhibits together; the etiquette of a nightclub queue, how customers in a busy café manage to secure a table to sit at and how people co-ordinate the order in which they go through revolving doors.
Although the choice is up to you, you cannot choose a setting that you have used for coursework in a different module.
We suggest one of three kinds of setting:
- a workplace (e.g. a place where you, a friend or a member of your family work);
- a public service (e.g. a form of transportation, a help, advice or reception service)
- a public setting (e.g. a museum or gallery, a shopping mall, a tourist venue)
Note: This is not an assessment in quantitative data analysis so do not include in your analysis any statistics, counts or measures.
Note: There are two tutorials that will be dedicated to discussing issues related to your coursework. In the first of these we will give you examples of settings where students have undertaken their study in previous years. This will guide you on your choice of topics and methods. In the tutorial before the reading week you will provide a brief written update on your coursework and be prepared to discuss your progress.
All studies should begin data collection by undertaking a period of fieldwork. The following is a suggested timetable for data collection:
Weeks 1 – 3 Identify a setting in which you will undertake your case study, undertake initial fieldwork: prepare preliminary description of study
Weeks 3 – 5 Undertake preliminary analysis of your data, undertake further fieldwork and, if necessary, collect other kinds of qualitative data
Weeks 5 – 7 Undertake further analysis and finalise report
The report should include five key sections. The word counts for each section are only guidelines. You are free to organise your report in any way you feel would help present your study. You can include images and figures in the main text of the report. You can provide an appendix to provide further evidence of data gathered.
Introduction (200 words)
A general introduction to the case study. This should include a discussion of why you chose to undertake the study of the particular area or field in question. It would also be useful, where relevant, to discuss any relevant academic studies that bore on your choice of setting or field to study.
Method and Approach (300 words)
A description of the research process you have undertaken including:
- how you gained access to the settings, engaged participants, collected materials;
- that nature of the material you gathered, for example the number of times
- you undertook fieldwork observation, when and where you gathered your data;
- any additional data you gathered;
- how you addressed the ethical issues raised by your study;
- any specific problems you needed to solve to gain access and/or collect data.
Analysis (1000 words)
This should form the greater part of the coursework and will be awarded most of the marks.
You need to focus on one or two key activities and analyse them in depth. You need to identify one or two key themes or issues from your analysis to help to structure the analysis and support your analysis with specific data extracts. You need to show evidence of how you developed these themes from the data you gathered. You also should show how examples from the data you have collected contributes to the analysis.
The tutorials will provide guidance on how you develop analyses from qualitative data.
Methodological Discussion (700 words) 700
Discuss the methodological issues and challenges that arose in undertaking your case study. For example, what were the benefits and challenges from collecting data in the way you did, analysing these data and presenting them. Discuss whether there are additional kinds of data that could be collected and whether you have any suggestions for future research that arise out of your study. Critically assess you own data collection and analysis, its weaknesses and strengths and how, in retrospect, you might have undertaken the case study differently.
Academic and Practical Implications (300 words)
Briefly consider the potential implications of your study for academic research in this or related fields. Discuss how your findings relate to relevant academic studies of work, organisations or social behaviour. Considering the issue(s) mentioned in your introduction, describe the contributions of your study, for example how it provides a better understanding of the critical issue, helps refine an existing concept or theory, suggests a critique of a concept or model in the literature or implies some innovation required to understand your topic. You should support your discussion with references to the academic literature.
Briefly discuss any implications your case study has for the setting you have considered. This could, for example, concern guidelines for better performance of an activity, a change in practice or the introduction of a new technology.
These are optional and not included in word the count. Examples from your data should be included in the main report but you can use an appendix to provide additional evidence of data you have gathered. Do not need to include all your fieldnotes, only additional examples. An appendix could include: (i) further details of the periods of field observations (ii) field notes from a period of observation (iii) additional vignettes for presenting your observations or (iv) analytic notes arising from your observations. If you have collected other materials you could include a transcription of a short period of talk (not more than 20 seconds); for video 2 or 3 still frames taken from the video (with a description of when and where this was recorded); for documents, you could include scanned images of documents or part of a documents; and for images, you could include be 2 or 3 examples. Please note an appendix is optional.