- Step 1: Define your plans
- Step 2: Conduct Research
- Step 3: Analyze Findings
- Try it now
- Additional Resources
What is this for? Ethnography is a research method based on observing people in their natural environment rather than in a formal research setting. Mindset and core principles - See beyond our preconceptions and see patterns of behavior in a real world context—both rationally and intuitively. - Have a curious and empathetic mindset.
Step 1: Define your plans
- Identify the issue or topic in general
- Determine your objectives for learning
- It's ok to be general when it's "exploratory"
- You can also be very specific to address key knowledge gaps
- Find the people to learn from, in their context.
- Start simple with family, friends, and your network. People love to help.
- Or, look to post an ad or recruit professionally.
*Only provide generic and high-level information to them prior
Step 2: Conduct Research
- If interviewing, outline a "Discussion Guide" (See Exploratory Research flow to help)
- Have note-taking and image-collecting devices
- Plan schedules to be early and hold time for post-debriefing
- Determine interview responsibilities
- 2-3 people to interview the participant is ideal
- 1 "Interviewing" (n/a if only observing)
- 1 Note-Taking
- 1 Media (photo/video)
- Conducting and capturing data
- How to be in the field:
- Withhold your judgement and knowledge. Have a beginners Mindset!
- You're not there to confirm, but to learn. Ask non-leading questions to hear THEIR responses.
- Be conversational and create a comfortable environment for sharing.
- LISTEN! (you're there to hear them)
- ABC-"Always Be Capturing". Observations are data. Wait to analyze separately.
- Utilize all senses and signals. Record what's being said, emotional responses, physical behaviours, and contextual factors. Go beyond
Step 3: Analyze Findings
Note: This can be challenging! Analysis has no precise formula for success, but here are some principles to help make sense of data.
- "Debrief" right after data collection, while it's fresh
- Reflect on how you felt and the empathy gained
- Bring together all data sources and observations
- Highlight/share key data points
- Look across research and be investigative
- What patterns/themes are emerging?
- What is surprising?
- What didn't you hear (that's insightful data too!)
- "Answer" your learning objectives and key questions
- Review your initial plans
Try it now
In your next conversation or meeting, try this out!
- Request - Customer Insights Workbook, by Advance Concepts
- LearningLive Session on Empathy (55min)
- Request - Primer for Ethnography, by Advance Concepts
- Request - KII Case Studies
- Innovating for People Handbook - See "Contextual Inquiry" and "Affinity Mapping" activities
- Human Centered Design Toolkit - See "Hear" pages 68-122
Related workshop activities
- Journey/Experience Mapping
- Empathy Mapping