Case Study vs Ethnography
In social sciences, case study and ethnography are two of the popular research methodologies. These techniques are commonly employed in anthropological and sociological studies. There are many similarities between these two methods, so much so that students often become confused and cannot differentiate between the two. However, there are differences in styles of data collection and the overall purpose of the study which shall become clear after reading this article.
While both a case study as well as ethnography is in depth study of an individual or a group, there are differences in approach. While ethnography is a study of a culture or an ethnic group, a case study investigates a particular instance, event or an individual. But there are case studies that involve a particular group or gang also. This makes finding a distinction between a case study and ethnography all the more difficult.
Let us take a closer look at the definitions of the two research methods. Ethnography is defined as an art and science of describing a group or culture. It is investigative in nature, and a successful ethnography is created when the ethnographer behaves like a true spy. He does not impose his own view points or try to make a subjective analysis of what is good or bad according to his own culture. It means that he has to remain neutral and does not need to be judgmental at any stage of ethnography. Ethnography requires a lot of patience, and it is not prudent to make generalizations without confirming them through repeated observations. Talking of observation, the best method of data collection in ethnography is through participant observation, where an ethnographer tries to become a part of the group and records observations without making any kind of analysis.
A case study is, on the other hand, explanatory in nature. It can also be descriptive in nature, and in that case it inches closer to ethnography. Case studies draw from a wealth of previous researches, and the researcher draws conclusions based upon the data he obtains from systematic study of a particular instance, event, individual, or a group. Case study is more interested in why’s of an event or an instance and its implications more than ethnography. In this sense, a case study is more outward looking than ethnography, which is an inward looking approach. A case study is often of a shorter duration than ethnography which takes up considerable time. Neutrality is the centre point of ethnography, which is also there in a case study, but not as much as in ethnography.
Case Study vs Ethnography
• While ethnography is an art of describing a group or culture, case study is an in depth analysis of a particular instance, event, individual, or a group
• Ethnography requires participant observation as a data collection method whereas it is not necessary in a case study.
• Case study is outward looking while ethnography is inward looking
• Ethnography takes a longer time than a case study.