What is Ethnography?

Ethnography is a research method central to knowing the world from the standpoint of its social relations. It is a qualitative research method predicated on the diversity of culture at home (wherever that may be) and abroad. Ethnography involves hands-on, on-the-scene learning — and it is relevant wherever people are relevant. Ethnography is the primary method of social and cultural anthropology, but it is integral to the social sciences and humanities generally, and draws its methods from many quarters, including the natural sciences. For these reasons, ethnographic studies relate to many fields of study and many kinds of personal experience – including study abroad and community-based or international internships. The certificate program in ethnographic studies (ETH) is intended for undergraduate students in all divisions as a supplement or complement to their department concentration or other certificate studies. (For further discussion about ethnography, see Why Study Anthropology.)

What can I expect to learn?

The purpose of the ETH certificate program is to educate students in ethnographic studies as a resource in preparing for international or U.S.-based study and internships, enriching their independent research experience at Princeton, enhancing their experience within their own fields of study – or just deepening their personal appreciation of the human dimensions of globalization and other aspects of the modern world.

Students in ethnographic studies benefit from particular forms of preparation involving key concepts, fieldwork methods, tenets of research ethics, interpretive agility, and personal skills. Ethnographers learn by immersing themselves in the environment they are studying.   As a research method, ethnography involves the systematic collection of diverse types of data through observation, conversation, and textual study – activities that in turn must be conducted in a locally appropriate manner. These are among the intellectual and interpersonal skills the certificate program undertakes to strengthen for students.

The goal of the program is to enhance students’ personal and academic experience through ethnographic study (in the United States or abroad), and, as they return to campus from the field, to help them integrate their “away” experience with their academic work. All in all, ethnography is relevant to many disciplines and fields of inquiry, and many kinds of personal experience.

What does the certificate program offer?

The certificate program in ethnographic studies addresses these potentialities with a pair of core courses on key concepts and ethnographic research methods and ethics, elective courses on issues of method and cultural analysis, and advising support for an ethnographic component in students’ senior independent research (or separate paper) in fulfillment of the program’s writing requirement.

Learn more about certificate requirements.

Program in Ethnographic Studies
116 Aaron Burr Hall