Ethnographic methods to study context: An illustration

M. Evans, D. Leake, D. F. Mcmullen, and S. Bogaerts, “Ethnographic methods to study context: An illustration,” tech. rep., Pervasive Technology Lab, Indiana University, 2005. [PDF]


This paper describe a case study where ethnographic research methods are applied to understand contextual factors that play a role for distributed collaborative troubleshooting. The authors conducted a nine-month naturalistic study of real-world remote diagnosis of electronic devices by ad-hoc teams.

Ethnographic studies can be conducted with a number of strategies, including controlled and quasi-experiments, surveys, histories, archival analyses, and case studies. According to Yin (Yin 1994, pp. 1–9), the unique advantages of each depends on three conditions: (a) the form of the research questions(s); (b) the control over actual behavioral events; and (c) the focus on contemporary as opposed to historical phenomena.

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