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David M. Fetterman captures the ethnographic imagination with the Fourth Edition of his popular text, Ethnography: Step-by-Step. He shares new case examples of his work to highlight the illuminating power of reflexivity and theory. The new edition expands the discussion of critical concepts such as culture, contextualization, emic and etic distinctions, and symbols. The book provides insights into the use of technology in ethnography from qualitative data analysis software to data visualization, and Questions for Reflection have been added to the end of each chapter. Fetterman is a seasoned educator, evidenced by both the clarity of his thinking and the simplicity of his writing.

Appreciations to . . .
About the Author
Chapter 1: An Overview: The First Step

The Problem

Basic or Applied Role


Research Design: Fieldwork

Formal Analysis

The Ethnography

Book Organization

Chapter 2: Anthropological Concepts: Walking in Rhythm

Holistic Perspective


Emic Perspective and Multiple Realities

Etic Perspective

Nonjudgmental Orientation

Inter- and Intracultural Diversity

Structure and Function

Symbol and Ritual

Micro- or Macrolevel Study



Chapter 3: Methods and Techniques: A Wilderness Guide

Selection and Sampling


Participant Observation


Lists and Forms


Projective Techniques

Additional Eliciting Devices

Unobtrusive Measures

Chapter 4: Ethnographic Equipment: Gearing Up
Pen and Paper

Digital Voice Recorders

Smart Phones

Web Mapping Services



Database Software


Video Camera



Chapter 5: Analysis: Finding Your Way Through the Forest



Key Events



Organizational Charts


Content Analysis



Chapter 6: Writing: Recording the Miracle
Research Proposals

Field Notes

Field Note Organization


Interim Reports

Final Reports, Blogs, Data Visualizations, Articles, and Books

Thick Description and Verbatim Quotations

Ethnographic Present

Ethnographic Presence

Ethnographically Informed Reports


Revising and Editing

Chapter 7: Ethics: Walking Softly Through the Wilderness
Historical Context

The Ethnographer’s Role

Academic and Applied Ethnography

Research Life Cycle


Appendix: Organization of Field Notes

This is an excellent resource to help students understand ethnography research. The author has painstakingly put together a body of work that is remarkable. It was definitely an enjoyable book for me to read, and I hope others feel the same. 

Ahmed Al-Asfour
Oglala Lakota College

Fetterman's text continues to be one of the most definitive guides to the ethnographic method. Comprehensive in scope and accessible in tone, it offers newcomers to this vivid approach an authoritative introduction, and to seasoned researchers a reminder of the wealth of possibilities ethnography can entail. Highly recommended. 

Peter Vlachos
University of Greenwich

Dr. Fetterman's Ethnography Step-by-Step, 4th edition is a valuable tool for not only the experienced ethnographer, but will be of tremendous help to a doctoral student doing an ethnographic study for their dissertation/thesis. The author does an excellent job of taking the reader through the entire ethnographic process, including the use of the latest technology tools used in research. 

Dale Crowe
University of Phoenix

This book offers a great blend of the old and the new. The old is a lucid and engaging exploration of what ethnography offers those of us who revel in the fascinating journey with the nuances of life, while the new is the seemingly never-ending quest to discover how we can use technology to appreciate the journey even more.

James Bernauer
Robert Morris University

Great overview. Very accessible for graduate students from professional schools (Law, Design, Nursing, Medicine)

Regina Austin
Law School, University Of Pennsylvania
December 10, 2021

I was looking for a credible, reliable and accessible text on ethnography and spent time to find an authoritative scholar on this research method. Very happy to now have David Fetterman's book in my research methods toolbox.

Dr Jill Bogie
Business, Gordon Institute of Business Science
February 18, 2020

I will be using this text for the summer course I teach in qualitative methods. It is easy to follow; the graduate students really profit from studying it.

Pedro Reyes
Educational Administration, University Of Texas- Austin
February 6, 2020
Key features
The Fourth Edition includes:
  • New examples drawn from ethnographic work at the Recovery Café (a healing community for those who have been traumatized by addiction, homelessness, and mental health challenges), Stanford University’s School of Medicine, Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Google
  • Updated tech tool discussions, including: qualitative data analysis and videoconferencing software
  • Expanded exploration of concepts, including: culture, contextualization, emic and etic distinctions, and symbols
  • Updated theoretical discussions, including: feminist and queer theories (with an emphasis on positionality and reflexivity)
  • Questions for Reflection at the end of each chapter

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1. An Overview: The First Step

Sage College Publishing

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