Focused Ethnography: A Methodological Adaptation for Social Research in Emerging Contexts

Sarah Stahlke Wall


Ethnography is one of the oldest qualitative methods, yet increasingly, researchers from various disciplines are using and adapting ethnography beyond its original intents. In particular, a form of ethnography known as "focused ethnography" has emerged. However, focused ethnography remains underspecified methodologically, which has contributed to controversy about its essential nature and value. Nevertheless, an ever-evolving range of research settings, purposes, and questions require appropriate methodological innovation. Using the example of a focused ethnography conducted to study nurses' work experiences, this article will demonstrate how particular research questions, the attributes of certain cultural groups, and the unique characteristics of specific researchers compel adaptations in ethnography that address the need for methodological evolution while still preserving the essential nature of the method.



focused ethnography; ethnography; methodology; participant observation; social research

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Copyright (c) 2014 Sarah Stahlke Wall

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