Montréal, Canada • October 22-25
HEC Montréal

Instructor: Sam Ladner, Amazon
Sunday, 22 October, 12:00–2:00, Dutailier International
20 participants, fee: $75  • REGISTER NOW

Ethnography is closely associated with the core qualitative methods of interviewing and observation. But ethnographers in business often work with a broad range of other methods, from video and diary studies to surveys and sensors. How do we choose the right tools for any given project? What makes any given method ethnographic? How does quantitative research fit into a typical ethnographic project?

This tutorial will review the typical research opportunities that applied social scientists (regardless of methodological specialty) encounter. Participants will learn how to zero in on the right method for the right research question, how to grapple with the personal challenge of recommending methods that may be outside your skill set, and how to use your ethnographic skill to enhance other methods.

The session will use an “active learning” format, including several “mini-lectures” and several interactive activities (Ebert-May, Brewer, and Allred 1997). Participants will collaborate each other in small groups. No special drawing skill is required, but participants should be prepared to sketch ideas.

Whom is this tutorial for?

This tutorial is designed for practitioners with at least 2 years’ experience in applied ethnography (not for absolute beginners). Participants may have a passing familiarity with quantitative methods, but in-depth knowledge of statistics, analytics, or data science is not required. No specific video skills are required. Knowledge of anthropological, sociological, or psychological theories would help participants get maximum value, but again, this is not required.

How to get the most out of this tutorial

Participants would do best to prepare for this workshop by exploring and perhaps journaling about past projects that did not provide clients with their desired outcomes. Consider the methodological limitations of your past ethnographic work (not simply the practical or logistical limitations), and when analyses have been rigorous, but somehow less impactful. During the workshop, participants should pay attention to their own, well-worn comfortable methods, and how to envision departing from them. After the workshop, participants would do well to read theory that explains human behavior, without regard for their disciplinary allegiance. Putting these ideas into practice soon after the workshop—and keeping track of results—would also help participants grow their practice.


Participants should bring a notebook and pen; typing directly into laptop would suffice, but participants are advised to try handwriting for better recall. (Mueller and Oppenheimer 2014). Interactive activities will involve the use of cameras (smartphones will be fine). Participants will receive handouts at the end of the workshop, and a reading list of suggested sources.


Sam Ladner is a sociologist who studies the ways humans live, work, and play with digital tools. Her past work has included workplace studies of engineers, lawyers, and financial services workers, and consumer studies of mobile technology use and social media consumption. She is the author of Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in The Private Sector, and has taught research methods at several universities. She currently works as a principal UX researcher at Amazon. She received her PhD in sociology from York University and currently lives in Seattle with her husband.