• research methods
  • qualitative

In user research, ethnography is a method of observing and studying users in their natural environment to gain insights into their behavior, attitudes, and needs. This involves immersing oneself in the user's context and observing how they interact with products, services, or systems. Ethnography in user research often involves conducting in-depth interviews, taking field notes, and sometimes using video or audio recording to capture and analyze user behavior. The goal of ethnography in user research is to gain a deep understanding of the user's perspective and to identify opportunities for designing user-centered solutions.

Key Attributes

The key attributes of ethnography are:

  • Longitudinal: The researcher can observe changes over time.
  • It is participant-centric, you work with participants and their context instead of as demographic objects.
  • It does not require expensive tools or equipment, it can't be done in a lab.
  • Offers the researcher an inside view of a participant's life.
  • Researchers can observe the context and environment the participant is operating in.
  • Ethnography provides powerful insights.

Ethnographic Methods

The main methods researchers use to do ethnography include:

  • Participant observation
  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Document analysis
  • Visual ethnography
  • Surveys
  • Network analysis (Social mapping)
  • Audio and video recordings

Overall, ethnographers may use a combination of these methods to gather rich, nuanced data about the community or organization they are studying.

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