Difference Between Ethnography & Ethnomethodology

Both ethnography and ethnomethodology are terms found in the sociological and anthropological fields of study and can refer to methods of research.

Ethnography a method of research, while ethnomethodology is a subdivision of sociology that focuses on the way that human beings in different societies construct their social orders.


Ethnography is used primarily in cultural anthropology and is the preferred method used to study human beings' ways of life due to its unobtrusive nature. It enables anthropologists and sociologists study the link between behaviour and culture and how this changes over time. An ethnography is highly detailed description of social life in a small number of cases.


Ethnomethodology is an alternative approach introduced by Harold Garfinkel to sociological inquiry. Ethnomethodology concerns itself with the everyday methods employed by people by drawing from the shared knowledge and reasoning of the society to respond to their environment. It seeks to describe the methods used in the production of social order.

Method of Research

A major difference between the two terms is that ethnography has a structured method of research while ethnomethology doesn't. The collection of information by ethnographers is conducted through a process called "participant observation," in which researches immerse themselves as much as possible in the daily life of the culture being studied. Details of their observations are recorded from the "native's point(s) of view" without the researcher imposing his own cultural interpretations to the data, according to the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Anthropology department. In contrast, ethnomethology doesn't have any formal research methods.

Field of Research

Another major difference is that ethnomethology is a field of research, unlike ethnography. Ethnomethology is the study of methodology, the way people make decisions and act and the methods they use to create a social order. Ethnography is not a field of research but a methodology used in other sociological fields. For example, an ethnomethologist would incorporate ethnography used by sociologists to study other cultures.