Barbara Perry Associates
Barbara Perry, Ph.D.
Ruth Sando, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 3130
2122 California St., NW
Truth or Consequences, NM 87901
Washington, D.C. 20003
A Tool for In-Depth Understanding
Barbara Perry Associiates
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes.” M. Proust
What is ethnography?
Ethnography is the research method used by anthropologists to understand behavior in context. Today, it is being applied
in a wide variety of non-academic settings, including corporate marketing, product development, government agencies and
non-profit organizations. The goal of ethnography is to develop and convey a well-rounded, “insider” perspective of
people’s values, customs, beliefs, behavior and what drives it. In organizational terms, this opportunity to experience
first-hand the environment and lives of others, followed by processing the raw material into patterns, themes, and
hypotheses is a catalyst for innovative thinking. The outcome is actionable insights, those “AHA’s” that come from having
the ability to “see with new eyes,” as well as a renewed sense of energy and commitment to the audience.
Organizations have come to a realization that while they often have reams of data about their customers, what really
matters (and remains elusive) is the understanding of meaning. What are the complex processes involved in the formation
of your audience’s perceptions and choices?
Ethnography differs from other qualitative research methods in several fundamental ways.
Ø First, it is an inductive approach to understanding. The research ends with hypotheses, rather than beginning with
them. By using an open-ended, discovery-oriented approach to the research topic, ethnography allows knowledge to
emerge rather than being forced into pre-determined categories. Compared t