PERCS Certificate

The PERCS Certificate program accesses current resources, courses and programs in order to provide students with clear pathways to mastering the skills necessary to conduct rigorous, ethical ethnographic fieldwork that culminates in a high-quality project. The program provides students with a valuable skill set relevant for graduate schools and employers, encourages deeper and more widely accessible engagement in undergraduate research, fosters integrative learning, and supports Elon’s commitment to engaged and experiential learning.

The primary goals of a PERCS Certificate are to provide students with an opportunity to develop and apply the skills necessary to conduct substantial and ethical ethnographic fieldwork and to formalize that skill set with a certificate with which graduate schools and employers can recognize the student’s achievement.


To get started, please submit a PERCS Certificate Application to the PERCS Director at We will review proposals between September and May on a monthly basis.


Goals & Outcomes

Exhibit a clear understanding of ethnography and ethnographic methods

Students will develop an understanding of ethnography both as a process and a product. This understanding should include key assumptions, functions, and goals of the ethnographic enterprise. These include but are not restricted to the following:

  • Explain and implement ethnographic research techniques
  • Develop an understanding of multiple ethnographic approaches
  • Develop an understanding of the scope and appropriate uses of different types of interview and observation methods.
  • Learn and apply multiple types of analysis such as event, content, spatial, interactive and performance.

Apply a thorough understanding of ethnography in a substantive field experience

Students will engage in significant ethnographic fieldwork whether in one or multiple field sites. All of the following aspects of ethnographic fieldwork must be conducted in an ethnical manner. (Please see PERCS website for modules on many of these issues as well as models and examples.)

  • Design research project grounded in contemporary theory
  • Establish rapport with a group of people for the purposes of research
  • Conduct interviews
  • Engage in participant observation and immersion
  • Produce ethnographic field notes that include the process of reflection
  • Analyze field data
  • Situate findings within current scholarship

Demonstrate an understanding and use of ethical inquiry

Ethnographers must have a thorough understanding and application of ethical modes of research, beginning with research design, continuing through fieldwork, and including decisions about the presentation and dissemination of the research (please see the ethics module on the PERCS website). Further, students should acquire a strong understanding of diversity and cultural variation when going into the field. The goal of ethnography is not to judge a culture but to better understand a culture; therefore, ethnographers must be trained to recognize their ethnocentric assumptions and biases when conducting research.

Produce an ethnographic project of high quality

Students will ultimately produce and disseminate their findings in an ethnographic project. This project might include, but is not restricted to, any of the following:

  • Journal length article
  • Visual ethnography
  • Descriptive ethnographic writing
  • Website or multi-media presentation
  • Ethnographic materials for use within or by the community
  • Performance based on ethnographic fieldwork

Submit a written description and reflection of how you have met these goals

Students will describe and explain how they met each of the requirements of the PERCS certificate. Specifically students must address:

  • How their understanding of ethnography and the ethnographic process changed over the course of their work.
  • The process of their ethnographic field project: the who, what, where, when, why and how of their projects.
  • How they ensured their work was ethical, from the initial development of the project to the final product, dissemination and withdrawal from the community. Be sure to address how you applied the PERCS Ethics module to your work.

Students will also reflect on this process, considering the impact their work had on the community, on individuals within that community, on scholarship in the area in which they worked, and on their own personal growth.



To earn a PERCS Certificate, students are required to do all of the following:

  • 8 s.h. of coursework from PERCS-designated courses (see below)
  • PERCS Ethics Module
  • CITI Certification
  • IRB Approval if needed
  • Production of an ethnographic project of high quality through one of the following:
    • 4 s.h. of 499 undergraduate research
    • 2 s.h. of 499 or 498 + internship
    • 2 s.h. of 499 or 498 + study abroad
    • 4 s.h. of extensive course-based work upon approval by PERCS committee
    • SURE: Summer Undergraduate Research Experience

Submission of Materials

Projects will be submitted to the PERCS committee for review and approval. Materials must be submitted at least 2 weeks before the end of the semester in which the student is completing her or his work and include the following:

  • Final Report Submission Form
  • Final Product
  • Description and Reflection
  • CITI Certificate

CITI Certification

To earn your CITI certification, please go to Elon’s IRB homepage. There you will find a link on the left for the CITI Course in the Protection of Human Research Subjects. Follow the instructions to complete your training. You should complete the “Social and Behavioral Responsible Conduct of Research, Basic Course.” Print out your certification to submit with your final materials.

IRB Approval

Most likely, your research will require IRB approval. Students cannot serve as the Principal Investigator on an IRB application, so please work with your mentor to submit this application. For more information, please visit Elon’s IRB homepage.

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