BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

Beyond a naturally occurring ethnography: the work-based researcher

Walsh, Anita (2011) Beyond a naturally occurring ethnography: the work-based researcher. Higher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning 1 (1), pp. 38-51. ISSN 2042-3896.

Full text not available from this repository.
Official URL:


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the contrast between the approach to research taken by academic ethnographers and that taken by work-based researchers. Van Manen claims that “a good ethnographer describes a cultural reality in such a way that a non-member of the culture could ‘pass as an insider’ if he or she had internalized the cultural features of the particular setting”. In order to achieve this level of familiarity with a context, ethnographers spend considerable amounts of time embedded in the culture which they are studying – “being there” is seen as fundamental to effective research. Design/methodology/approach – The paper provides a reflection and deliberation on personal experience. Findings – The dominance of the academic disciplines and the model of research in higher education which considers the doctoral student as a novice researcher problematises the role of the work-based researcher. It calls into question the extent to which valid research can be undertaken by practitioners in the workplace. Research limitations/implications – Practitioner researchers, research their practice and/or context. These researchers are not novices – they are usually senior practising professionals who are very familiar with the organisational and occupational culture in their workplace. However, in contrast to academic researchers, usually their intention is not to provide an ethnographic account of it. They are concerned to address issues and/or achieve changes/developments in practice in order to improve the functioning of their organisation.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Business, Economics & Informatics > Management
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2012 16:22
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:22

Archive Staff Only (login required)

Edit/View Item Edit/View Item