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Asian Studies

What is Ethnography?

According to Anthropology department at Princeton University:

Ethnography is a research method central to knowing the world from the standpoint of its social relations. It is a qualitative research method predicated on the diversity of culture at home (wherever that may be) and abroad. Ethnography involves hands-on, on-the-scene learning — and it is relevant wherever people are relevant. Ethnography is the primary method of social and cultural anthropology, but it is integral to the social sciences and humanities generally, and draws its methods from many quarters, including the natural sciences. For these reasons, ethnographic studies relate to many fields of study and many kinds of personal experience – including study abroad and community-based or international internships. (Anthropology@Princeton, 2023)

When doing ethnographic research, researchers have a responsibility to prevent doing harm to groups that are the subject of their studies. Overall, ethnographers should do no harm, be open and honest about their work, obtain informed consent and necessary permissions, keep competing ethical obligations to collaborators and affected parties in mind, make their results accessible, protect and preserve records, and maintain respectful and ethical professional relationships. (American Anthropological Association, 2012) The sections below can help to serve as a guide for ethical approaches to designing and conducting ethnographic research. 

Books on Starting Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic Research Methods

Codes of Ethics

Different professional organizations have adopted codes of ethics for conducting ethnographic research. Below are some examples of codes of ethics and professional responsibilities:

American Anthropological Association Statement on Ethics (includes supporting resources for each ethics principle)

American Sociological Association Code of Ethics

American Psychological Association Code of Ethics

Below is a free, online module where you can receive Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training. 

Human Research Ethics for the Social Sciences and Humanities from Macquarie University