• A street market in South London. Photo credit Kim Jones.
  • Students in a Qualitative Research Methods class and members of the APO Service Learning fraternity celebrate Halloween 2009 with children at the East Burlington Community Center. Photo credit Kim Jones.
  • Apple pressing in Cowee, NC 2008 as part of research conducting through PERCS. Photo credit Kirsten Rhodes.
  • NC potter Mark Hewitt with a clay coil for a large pot in Pittsboro, NC 2005. Photo credit Tom Mould.
  • A young woman getting her lip pierced at Kingpin Tattoo in Greensboro, NC 2002. Photo credit Lauren Vilis & Samiha Khanna.

What is ethnography?

Ethnography is a method of studying the social and cultural dimensions of human interaction. Its goal is to understand communities and cultures from an insider’s perspective, and then translate that understanding to outsiders. Ethnography focuses on what people do in face-to-face interaction and depends heavily on participation, observation and interviewing. This methodology is grounded in the same principles behind experiential learning—that we can understand the world by participating and engaging with other groups.

Ethnography is as useful for studying local communities as it is for global ones. It can also be applied to assessing and helping people address problems and needs in their organizations and communities. With ethnography, the range of areas, issues and communities one might study is vast. For some of the projects PERCS has been involved in, see our Projects page.