The ethnographic turn: Fact, fashion, or fiction?

Rebecca J. Culyba, Carol A. Heimer, Juleigh Coleman Petty

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Commentators have suggested that a "qualitative turn" occurred in the social sciences in the last couple of decades of the twentieth century. We examine evidence on publication patterns, finding that the "ethnographic turn" consisted more of a proliferation of specialty journals than increased publication in mainstream sociology journals. This difference is important because it moves methodological debate inside the community of qualitative scholars, changing the focus from a contrast between qualitative and quantitative methods to questions about the relative merits of different styles of ethnographic work. Thus far, our data suggest, the main effect of the "ethnographic turn" may have been to institutionalize a set of labels rather than a set of practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-389
Number of pages25
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Ethnography
  • Fieldwork
  • Methodology
  • Participant observation
  • Publication

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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