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Ethnographies: Finding relevant resources

Brief online guide highlighting ethnographic sources

What is an Ethnography?

The word 'ethnography' is derived from the Greek "ethnos", meaning  a people, nation, or cultural group etc. and  "graphy" meaning writing.

It refers to a first hand descriptive work of a particular group/culture based on the immersive observations of the researcher.


Finding Ethnographies

Many ethnographic works are available to you in print/electronic format and you can find these using Library Search and the databases A-Z list. 


Not all ethnographies will contain the term "ethnography" in the book title or description, so you will have to think about other ways to find relevant ethnographic materials.

Here are some examples of online search techniques you can try.  Youc an use combinations and variations of these suggestions in order to pinpoint the materials you need.

You will always have to examine the books and materials you find through your online searching to make sure they are ethnographies / ethnographic studies. 


1. Search for ethnographies and the culture, group, topic or place  you are interested in


e.g. ethnograph* and welsh communities

e.g. ethnograph* and china

e.g. ethnograp* and muslim women

e.g. ethnograp* and animal

ethnograph* has been used to find variant word endings, e.g. ethnography, ethnographies, ethnographic

You could also use ethnolog* for  ethnology, ethnologies, ethnologic etc.


2. Search for "case study" or "social anthropology "and the culture, group or place you are interested in


e.g. "case study" and muslim women

e.g. "social anthropology" and navajo

e.g. "case study" and zoo

The quotation marks "..." have been used for phrase searching, i.e. your search terms must appear next to each other in that exact order.


3. Search for "social life and customs" and the culture, group, topic or place you are interested in


e.g. "social life and customs" and British expatriates

e.g. "social life and customs" and aborigines


4. Search for an anthropologic term and the culture, group, topic or place you are interested in.


e.g. kinship and welsh communities

e.g. marriage rituals and south america

e.g. religio* and london immigrants

e.g. ritual* and animal* and death


5. Check whether the online database you are using allows you to choose "ethnography" as part of your search


e.g. In the Anthropology Online database you can select ethnography as a content type when searching.

Sample search: "social anthropology" and food and ritual and hindu* and ethnography

The results have also been refined by selecting the Anthropology subject area

Note that both book and journal articles are available.

Sample search: Advanced Search option used

 "Africa" selected in Place Terms Index list & Ethnography & Field Notes selected as Content Types



You will find many book length ethnographies within the Social Sciences section of the Forum Library on Level -1.  The 300s section holds materials relating to Sociology and Anthropology.

You should always use the Library Search Catalogue to help you find relevant items  - see the advice on the Searching Online tab. 


Some ethnographic works will be found elsewhere in the library collections


For example: this work ethnographic work is found at 152.42KAV in the Forum Library which is within the Psychology section.

You will find that some materials are located within the topic/subject section to which they relate, evn though they may be an ethnographic study.  So be prepared to branch out beyond the 300s section in the library

When using the print ethnographies, make full use of their content pages and the index in order to discover all the relevant content.


The title of the book alone will not be sufficient to flag all the relevant material encompassed in the book. For example you may be looking for discussion of childhood or education topics and these terms may not appear in the book title which might be framed around family or communities or the groups under discussion.

Examples :

It is not obvious from this book title, exactly which aspects of welsh communities are included.

If you hover over the i (information icon)  you get a brief picture, but you will find that the contents page and the index at the back of the book are invaluable aids if you want to pinpoint discussion of particular aspects of welsh community life such as family,  farming, masculinity, Welsh language etc.

Contents Page



Index pages

And in this example, you can see how helpful the index is, in flagging the topics that are addressed in this ethnographic work.


Doing Ethnographic Research

In addition to looking at ethnographic works, you might also be interested in finding out more about 'doing ethnography' in order to understand the research methodology in greater depth.  You can find relevant resources by searching Library Search or using the databases.

SAGE Research Methods is a vast research methodology database.  You can use it to learn about a wide range of research methods across the social sciences and also to access book and reference works on methodology topic, including aspects of ethnographic research

For example, you can use the Methods Map to learn more about Ethnography as a research method - as well as narrower and broader related research method. 

Use the SAGE research methods LibGuide to help you get the best from the resource.


You can also use the online research databases to find books and journal articles related to the science and techniques of ethnography as a research methodology.

You will find find all the databases via the A-Z list.

Use the Anthropology Research Databases online guidance to learn more about finding and using the most relevant databases for anthropology related research. 

Listen to Ellen Isaac's short TEDx Brodway talk on Ethnography


You might also like to browse other Ted Talk topics such as Anthropology or the Anthropocene


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