PhD Social Anthropology / Programme details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Issues in Ethnographic Research II

Course unit fact file
Unit code SOAN70652
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


For Research Students only

The workshops and exercises will include:

Access and arrivals
Mixed methods
Keeping a record



- to offer the opportunity to practice anthropological research methods and analysis and to encourage experimentation and reflection

- to address any recognised skills gaps

- to develop awareness of ethical and political issues in anthropological research specifically, and empirical social research generally

- to locate anthropological methods within social science research methodology and to explore underlying premises and the meaning of 'data'

- to foreshadow some of the issues that may arise in your own and future research

- to practice different genres of writing

Learning outcomes

The course focuses on techniques for the collection, recording and analysis of data. It will address questions about the relationship between general theories and empirical research with a particular, but not exclusive, emphasis on ethnographic fieldwork. The module will raise 'foreshadowed questions' about the processes of ethnographic fieldwork such as access to 'the field', ethics, fieldnotes, issues of representation, dissemination and the different genres of academic writing.

Teaching and learning methods

The course will be delivered in eight workshops which will rely on the active and full participation of the whole group. You will be set a series of practical and interconnected exercises. The workshops will be structured around your feedback from, and reflections on, these exercises. Wherever possible, you will connect the exercises to your own research interests and there will the possibility to include some themes according to the needs of the group that have already been identified and the questions that arise as the course progresses.

Assessment methods

You will be required to write a 4,000 word research paper that will build upon the experience of your 'mini project' - an interview, a life story, a small household or workplace survey. The intention is to encourage reflection on one of the 'issues' we have addressed in this part of the course drawing upon relevant selected literature.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 30
Independent study hours
Independent study 120

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michelle Obeid Unit coordinator

Additional notes


For Research students only.

The second part of Issues in Ethnographic Research builds on the work you have done in the first part of the course.  While I have added a short reading list, please note that the readings from Part One remain highly relevant.  This second part aims to address in a practical way some of the issues you have already discussed and to examine the relevance of certain skills to your individual research projects.

You may well question whether research methods can be taught.  Isn't every research topic and context unique?  Doesn't a great deal depend as much on the interpersonal relations that develop in 'the field' and on serendipity as on any type of careful preparations made in the (relatively!) safe environment of the academic department?  When asked what advice should be given to students preparing for postgraduate anthropological research, one well-known anthropologist responded 'Think vaguely!'
While remaining 'open' to what fieldwork might teach us, and while the needs and required skills of individual members of the class will necessarily vary, the premise of the course is that there are skills to develop and there is some usefulness in trying to anticipate what fieldwork might throw at you.  Thinking through practice, and through the experience of others, should help to raise interesting questions.  Developing a proposal, doing fieldwork and writing 'up' a thesis can be both a stressful and a rather lonely experience.  At this pre-fieldwork stage, the course offers the opportunity to try out various methods and to consider their strengths and limitations in the company of, and more importantly, with the support of others.


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