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


  • Sarah Stahlke Wall University of Alberta



focused ethnography, ethnography, methodology, participant observation, social research


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.



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Author Biography

Sarah Stahlke Wall, University of Alberta

Sarah WALL, PhD, is a sociologist and an assistant professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Alberta. She is a qualitative methodologist who has conducted and published the findings of ethnographic and autoethnographic projects. She teaches, among other courses, research methods and is co-editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Methods. Her substantive research interests pertain to nurses' work and work environments, emerging nursing roles, professions and organizations, and organizational ethics.




How to Cite

Stahlke Wall, S. (2014). Focused Ethnography: A Methodological Adaptation for Social Research in Emerging Contexts. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(1).



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