Ethnographic research is a field survey method which consists in collecting data in a natural environment of the surveyed person, e.g. at home, at work, during shopping. It involves not only observation, but also the analysis of objects and documents or photographs, and the researcher’s role is to “integrate” in the everyday life of the surveyed person, learn the setting, behaviour and habits, as well as socially and culturally formed patterns of conduct. The researcher also develops detailed documentation, and may request the surveyed person to provide explanation of individual decisions or actions as necessary.
The collected information enables the verification of declarations of respondents, as well the analysis of the observed situations and behaviours in the context. This method allows the researcher to gather information that largely reflects the real life of the respondents.
The following types of ethnographic surveys may be distinguished according to the place of observation:
- Exploratory field observations (e.g. going to a pub, assisted shopping) – the researcher records the manner of planning purchases, shopping habits of the surveyed person and specific behaviour in a given place.
- Exploratory observations in the workplace – the researcher focuses on the prevailing atmosphere in the company, relations between employees and potential conflicts.
- Visits to the households – the researcher conducts observation of the everyday life of the surveyed person and routine activities performed during visits. The method often used during a longer stay is called shadowing, because the researcher closely follows the surveyed person recording in detail all the behaviours and habits observed.