Karen O’Reilly is Freelance Researcher and Training Provider, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Loughborough University, and Co-Investigator on the www.BrexitBritsAbroad.org project at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has taught ethnographic and qualitative methods for over 25 years, including the Essex Summer School, the Swiss Summer School in Social Science Methods, in Lugano; at universities in the UK, Germany, Norway, and Hong Kong. Her experience also includes being a Member of the Advisory Board of the NCRM biannual Research Methods Festival 2011-2012; and a member of the ESRC Peer Review College 2012 – 2016. Karen is a highly experienced ethnographer and qualitative researcher whose many publications include two widely cited books on ethnography: Ethnographic Methods (Routledge, 2nd ed. 2012) and Key Concepts in Ethnography (Sage, 2009). She has also been instrumental in the design and evaluation of Masters level Research Methods courses and programmes in a number of universities. Karen provides short courses for the Social Research Association on a regular basis, as well as bespoke training in qualitative research methods.
Course Content Ethnography is an increasingly popular style of research, employed in both long-term and short-term studies in creative ways across the social sciences. This course provides a comprehensive introduction to the technical, practical and philosophical issues that arise when employing traditional and innovative ethnographic methods. Ethnographers typically immerse themselves in a setting for a period of time, listen, ask questions; and supplement observation with the analysis of interview data, documents, and visual and digital data.
Such an intrusion into the social setting presents a challenge to the ‘received view of science’ but ethnographic methods have proven, over time, to provide valid, valuable and rich contextual data with which to understand complex social issues. This course addresses practical and theoretical issues through the following topics: the history of participant observation and contemporary applications; hypotheses and induction; accessing the field; writing fieldnotes; making sense of observational data and telling credible stories; multi-sited, virtual, visual and sensory ethnography; reflexivity and the emotions in fieldwork.
The course is practical, encouraging participants to relate topics to their own research interests and to carry out and begin to analyse micro-observational studies.
Course objectives By the end of the course participants should: Be able to make close, theory-oriented observations through participation, observation, and conversation.
Be equipped to record and analyse the data produced through diverse methods. Take a critical and creative approach to ethnographic methods and understand how they can be combined with other methods of data collection for a range of social, political and policy research areas.
Be in a position to defend the validity and reliability of ethnographic interpretations.
Course Prerequisites The course is introductory but intensive, rapidly taking participants from a beginner to an advanced level. Some prior familiarity with qualitative methods and a background (basic) knowledge of philosophy of social science is required. Participants should be aware that the practical decisions to be made when conducting ethnographic research are necessarily theoretically-informed and will vary with each practitioner’s orientation. The course aims to equip participants with the knowledge required to make those decisions for themselves in practice.
Representative Background Reading O’Reilly, K. 2009. Key Concepts in Ethnography, London: Sage
O’Reilly, K. 2012. Ethnographic Methods, 2nd. Ed. London: Routledge (or 1st ed.) This book will be provided by the summer school as part of the course material.
Scheper-Hughes, N., 2000. Ire in Ireland. Ethnography, 1(1), pp. 117-140.
The Summer School Course is practical, teaching the theory and practice of ethnographic research through lectures, practical sessions, and discussion. The ethnographic approaches we cover can be applied in all fields that depend on social research, such as education, social work, criminal justice, sociology, psychology, communications and political science. The course encourages you to intellectually relate what is taught to your own research interests. There is a demand on participants in the course to participate: these methods are learned by trial and error and through experience rather than through chalk and talk methods. Many of the themes we wish to raise and discuss will, we hope, be raised naturally as you attempt to do your own field research and interviews. The below is a guide. Actual delivery and exercises will be responsive to the needs of the participants. Readings will be made available as virtual copies.
Session 1. What is ethnography? Plan and design
Traditional and contemporary approaches to ethnography and the history of the methods. Planning and designing and the role of the literature review. Iterative-inductive research. The role of serendipity.
O’Reilly, K. 2012. Ethnographic Methods. Chapters 1 and 2.