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Ethnography Paper Writing Step-by-Step

Many people can confuse writing an ethnography paper with writing a journal or article. But it is not the same. An ethnography paper is a lengthy composed description that provides awareness and builds comprehension of social models in a cultural context. Usually, social scientists (anthropologists and sociologists) write ethnography papers in order to present them to a bigger public. Social scientists are often compared with journalists because they both observe and examine human experiences and behaviors. Ethnography papers are unique because they can link their discoveries to social theories.

What is the Purpose of an Ethnography Paper?

The word “ethnography” possesses a Greek origin. “Ethos” refers to “people,” and “graphic” refers “to write”. Therefore, we may conclude that an ethnography paper is writing about people. An ethnographer should live in a concrete community utilizing research methods enabling him/her to learn about the culture of this community. Ethnographers can observe the behavior and lifestyle of people of a particular community. After that, an ethnographer should write an ethnography paper.

We have already mentioned that writing an ethnography paper is time-consuming. Now you understand why. An ethnographer needs much time to collect lots of research. In order to compose an ethnography paper, ethnographers should conduct several months or even years of carrying research.

Main Parts of an Ethnography Paper

If you decide to write an ethnography paper, you should know its main parts before starting to conduct research. The main parts are the thesis statement, literature reviews, data collection, data analysis, and reflexivity. Let’s consider every part in detail.

Thesis Statement

Your thesis should set the central topic and message of your ethnography paper. The thesis statement will assist in organizing your research study and unite your ethnography paper around a single important idea. It will additionally assist your readers in understanding the importance of the cultural model you have researched. Make your thesis statement one to two sentences in length.

Literature Reviews

Literature reviews mean analysis of past research on your research theme. By gathering background information, you can better understand the importance of your research theme. During an analysis of every literature article, you need to examine the theme, research methods and findings, advantages and disadvantages, and how your study will facilitate previous research. You should involve one or a maximum of five articles on a research theme. Everything depends on the desired length of your ethnography paper.

Data Collection

You should explain what methods you utilized to collect your quantitative and qualitative data in the data collection part. This part enables you to set the reliability and reasonableness of your research study.

Data Analysis

The part of data analysis involves the interpretation of the data you have gathered. This part enables you to provide significance to data and link it to a thesis statement. You can include graphs of your data; everything will depend on your data and the desires of an audience.


Reflexivity is a part where you can provide your personal reasons for conducting a research study and what limitations you faced while doing your research study. It will assist you in eliminating any prejudice that the audience can assume about your personal contribution to the research study. Moreover, this part can help to eliminate any misunderstanding in your data. Do not forget to indicate what contribution your research study introduces in your field of study.

Main Steps in Writing Your Ethnography Paper

Ethnography is a branch of science that studies the life, culture, beliefs, and communities of a particular ethnic group of inhabitants. Ethnography sound fascinating on paper and is even more fascinating in reality, which is why many students are excited to be tasked with writing an ethnography paper for their History, Social Studies, or Anthropology class. However, an ethnography paper isn’t an easy task at all, because there are so many sides to any ethnographic concept that you need to take into account when working on a paper. Luckily, with our 5 tips, every student who says “I don’t know how to write my paper” will ace this challenge!

Step 1. Explore

The easiest way to make sure your writing goes smoothly and brings good results is to choose the right topic. Often students are given ethnography paper topics by their professors, but if you have any say in deciding what to write about, we recommend picking a topic that you’re either familiar with and passionate about or a topic that you’ve never worked with but that has captivated you from the start. It can be a whole group of people or even just an idea – as long as it provokes your thoughts and stimulates you to do more research that will then be turned into a quality ethnography paper.

Step 2. Define your thesis

Choosing a topic for your paper is important, but you can’t write a several-page paper on a topic that is too broad. To write a good paper, you need to significantly narrow down your topic to a single thesis that will serve as the basis for your whole work.

Another common concept for writing an ethnography paper is often referred to as the guiding question. Ideally, you should set the guiding question after doing the research and use the thesis of the paper to answer that question. These two concepts will help you focus better on the subject of your work without getting distracted by minor issues.

Step 3. Introduction

In most ethnography paper writing guides, you will discover that it’s recommended to start your paper with an introduction that you will then use to keep to the structure of the paper and stay on topic. This strategy for writing a paper is completely viable and will deliver the expected results. However, many students find that they are more comfortable with leaving the introduction for later when they know for sure what their paper is about and can introduce its thesis in several sentences.

Step 4. Outline

A correctly written outline is like the backbone of the paper – you can always refer to it when you’re not sure what to do next and it serves as a navigation system for the potential readers of your paper.

The most common outline of an ethnography paper includes methodology, data analysis, and conclusion. Pay special attention to the methodology, where you need to introduce your readers to the ways you gathered information for the research and what difficulties you encountered. Present your findings with interpretation in the data analysis part, and summarize your findings briefly in the conclusion.

Step 5. Final draft

After you finish working on the three main parts of your ethnography paper outline, move on to the additional sections like title page and bibliography. Pay special attention to the references – many scholars specifically look for this part in any paper. Finally, proofread your work or have someone proofread it for you to prevent grammar or spelling mistakes from getting you a perfect score.

Write an Introductory Part and a Conclusion

Do not hurry to write an introductory part in the beginning. It is advisable to prepare it at the end. Your introductory part is the summarization of the ethnography paper. It enables your readers to get the main information of what to wait for from the ethnography paper. If you decide to write an introductory part at the end, you can formulate your thoughts better. It will assist you in building a platform for your thesis statement.

A conclusion of your ethnography paper should be written at the end as well. It is better to make it concise and to the point. Note that a lengthy conclusion can lead to a loss of interest of the readers. A conclusion should highlight the main results of your research study and your personal interpretation of it.

Quantitative Research or Qualitative Research

In the “data collection” part, you have to specify what methods you used. We can define two methods for data collection: quantitative research and qualitative research.

  • Quantitative Research. As the title implies, quantitative research consists of numerical data. You can depict this data with the help of various graphs and charts. This method means collecting data with the help of close-ended surveys and questionnaires, experiments, as well as observations. The results are recorded in numerical format.
  • Qualitative Research. Such a method suggests an understanding of factors. The qualitative method involves polling a group of people as well as carrying open-ended questionnaires. Moreover, it involves your field notes collected during the observation of participants.

The Final Actions

The last but not the least action in writing an ethnography paper is proofreading and editing. It will be a pity if you spent much time writing and presenting your ethnography paper with mistakes and typos. You can ask your friend or relative to read your ethnography paper. Ask advice if there is a need to make some changes. Check if your ethnography paper is concentrated on the main topic of your thesis statement. After you have checked an ethnography paper completely, you can submit or publish it.

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