Ethnography: An Example of Transparent Reporting

A portion of the following is an excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 221).

Ethnography: An Example of TransparencyThe important component in research design concerning transparency has been discussed many times in Research Design Review. And indeed, Transparency is the third component of the Total Quality Framework. The integrity and ultimate Usefulness of qualitative research hinges on exposing design and data collection details in the final reporting documents.

An excellent example of transparency can be found in “Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation” (Small et al., 2006). Here, the authors report on a participant–observation study that was conducted to complement a broader study concerning the impact of enforcement on illicit drug-use-related behavior. Their description of what went on in the field is a good example of giving the reader a clear understanding of the field activity:

Trained observers spent time “hanging out” in and around locales where drug sales and injecting took place, talking to and interacting with drug users. Discussions, occurrences, and observations were documented in fieldnotes. Observational data recorded in extensive fieldnotes included: location and character of public injection venues; syringe acquisition, availability, and disposal; public drug consumption patterns for injection and non-injection drugs; and description of public drug users. . . . Each observational field visit incorporated two hours of participant–observation conducted in streets and alleys as well as time spent writing fieldnotes to document observations and discussions. A target area and schedule of observations was devised, drawing on previous ethnographic research examining needle exchange practices. . . . The observations targeted both street-side and in the alleyways along 10 blocks of Hastings Street, where numerous clusters of drug market and consumption activity were identified by ethnographic mapping techniques. . . . Observations were distributed between morning, afternoon, and evening hours, with an increased number of observations occurring around monthly welfare payments when public drug scene and police activity increases. As some drug market and using locales shifted and new ones emerged, ethnographic data collection activities were altered accordingly to survey the largest portion of the open drug using scene, including areas far outside the central Hastings corridor. (pp. 86–87)


Small, W., Kerr, T., Charette, J., Schechter, M. T., & Spittal, P. M. (2006). Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 85–95.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.