Elon’s Program for Ethnographic Research and Community Studies (PERCS) is dedicated to the ethical exploration of local, national, global, and online communities through participant observation and in-depth interviewing. Our goal is to foster the understanding and use of ethnographic field research across all fields of study. We recognize the power of engaged, experiential learning possible through ethnography and work to ensure that students and faculty approach community studies ethically, responsibly, and collaboratively.
To meet this mission, PERCS offers a range of resources including teaching modules on methods and ethics, recording equipment for check-out, books and online resources, nationally and internationally known speakers, and a growing body of community research projects including video documentaries.
PERCS offers a certificate program that provides students with rigorous training in ethnographic research at the undergraduate level. Students who complete the program requirements are eligible to receive the PERCS Certificate of excellence. PERCS also supports grants for student ethnographic projects.
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 actual face-to-face, or online (screen-to-screen) 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 or online 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.