Time for ethnography

Jeffrey, Bob and Troman, Geoff (2004). Time for ethnography. British Educational Research Journal, 30(4) pp. 535–548.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0141192042000237220


Ethnography derives from traditional anthropology, where time in the field is needed to discern both the depth and complexity of social structures and relations. Funding bodies, seeking quick completion, might see ethnographies as unlikely to satisfy 'value for money' criteria, in spite of the rewards to be gained from time-consuming 'thick description', and rich analysis that gets close to the lived experience of participants in social settings. However, ethnographic time need not only be perceived of as a lengthy and sustained period in the field prior to writing. The authors suggest that there are different forms of ethnographic research time, each with specific features, and drawing on their experience of ethnographic research they exemplify them. They conclude by suggesting that the selection of the appropriate form is dependent on the contingent circumstances of the research and the main purpose of the research, and suggest strategies for developing this work in contemporary circumstances.

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