Advancing the Value of Ethnography

EPIC Course

Ethnographic Interviewing: Mastering the Essential Qualitative Method

This course offers a thorough foundation in ethnographic interviewing—all the way from principles and project briefs to analysis—and the skills, wisdom, and practice you need to create powerful insights in diverse contexts.
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Capacity: 20 participants

Schedule: Currently running; next dates to be announced

Fees: 

A current EPIC Membership ($150) is required, plus course fee:

  • Regular price – US$950
    Choose if the fee will be paid or reimbursed by your organization
  • Self-pay price  – US$750
    Choose if the fee will not be paid or reimbursed by your organization

Overview

Asking questions sounds easy, and perhaps that’s why interviewing is such a ubiquitous research method. But ethnographic interviewing is far more – and is profoundly more valuable – than a series of questions used to extract information. Ethnographic interviewing is an essential and highly adaptable method that yields a wealth of rich data and powerful, multilayered insights.

This course offers a thorough foundation in ethnographic interviewing and the knowledge, skills, and tactics you need to become a masterful practitioner. You will learn core methodological principles and cover the entire research process, from project briefs and research design to analysis and sensemaking.

Your growth from “good” to “masterful” interviewer requires not just rigor, but also creativity and adaptation. The course includes a wide range of strategies so you can work with diverse projects, briefs, domains, complementary methods, modes of analysis, stakeholders, social and cultural groups, and contextual challenges. It also offers the crucial ingredients we generally don’t have when we struggle to learn this craft on our own: master mentors to learn from, exercises and ample practice, a peer group of professional researchers for collaboration and feedback, and a foundational set of resources for your long-term advancement.

Attention to ethics, equity, emotional labor, and harm prevention should be foundational to all research practice, and are integrated throughout the course.

On successful completion of this course you will receive an EPIC Badge – a verified credential based on the Open Badges accreditation system.

The Value of Ethnographic Interviewing

Ethnographic interviewing is an essential qualitative method that:

  • Includes many different techniques that are adaptable to a wide range of projects, contexts, and uses
  • Generates rich data and powerful, multilayered insights that have both immediate and long-term strategic value
  • Offers unparalleled understanding of how people use, perceive, and experience services, products, brands, trends, concepts, or institutions in their daily lives and environments
  • Provides deep contextual understanding of social and technical ecosystems and how people navigate them, make decisions, and create meaning
  • Complements and extends a wide range of other sources of data and insight, from observation and usability studies to surveys and log data
  • Provides empathetic understanding of diverse audiences, on their own terms, that allows researchers to bring multiple points of view into heuristic reviews, internal brainstorms, or strategic meetings
  • Contributes to a wide range of research artifacts and outputs, including video highlights, journey maps, personas, storyboards, flow diagrams, and product roadmaps, to name just a few
  • Is a valuable professional asset – it is an essential and adaptable research expertise, and it elevates our interactions and relationships as strategists, managers, colleagues, clients and consultants

Who Will Benefit from This Course?

This course is designed for anyone, working across all sectors and industries, seeking deeper training in this essential qualitative method. The curriculum will be directly relevant to practitioners in fields such as UX, CX, design, strategy, marketing, consumer research, management consulting, brand communications, program evaluation, content strategy, foresight, change management, or planning. Ethnographic interviewing also offers valuable skills for talent management, product management, and other domains and roles that require understanding people, teams, and organizational cultures.

Whether you never received the training you’d like in interviewing or qualitative research, are an established interviewer but seek a more versatile or more deeply ethnographic practice, want to translate your academic research experience into organizational and client work, are a quantitative researchers seeking to do mixed methods work or build opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, or want strategies for training your own research teams, you’re warmly welcome in the course.

No specific background or experience is required. Exercises, resources, and readings targeted at different levels will allow participants to go deeper according to their interests and areas of expertise. Ethnographic interviewing requires continual development and adaptation throughout our careers, and the course offers additional perspectives, practice, challenges, and tactics to experienced practitioners as well.

If you have questions please connect with us: courses@epicpeople.org

Coursework

This is an online course with a combination of asynchronous, self-paced materials and live group sessions. Assignments are designed to be flexible and feasible for working professionals, but valuable learning in this course does require your commitment and active engagement.

Assignments and exercises can be done completely on your own, but collaboration with course participants is encouraged. Working with others is often a successful learning strategy, but particularly for an intersubjective method like interviewing, the feedback, partnership, and fresh perspectives you experience with peers can be invaluable.

Total time commitment is approximately 20-30 hours over 7 weeks.

Course components:

5 Instructional Units

Each unit includes:

  • Instructional Video (20–30 minutes weekly, on your own time)
  • Practice Assignment: (30 minutes weekly, on your own time)
  • Listening Assignment: (20–30 minutes weekly, on your own time)
  • Reading Assignment: (20–30 minutes weekly, on your own time)
  • Live Group Session: (1.5 hour)

“Masters Sessions”

Interviewing is a craft that researchers adapt to different organizational and cultural environments and hone over years of experience. It is essential to develop a practice of continuous learning. To cultivate this practice, course participants will have opportunities to learn from “master interviewers” with deep experience in different social, cultural, and industry contexts. They’ll share practical advice and artful wisdom, and discuss challenges and complexities in all phases of the process (1.5 hours each).

Schedule

Session 1: Orientation

Discuss essential information about the course; meet the instructor and course participants.

Session 2: Principles of Ethnographic Interviewing

  • Orientation to the course
  • Core principles of ethnographic interviewing
  • How interviewing creates knowledge and data
  • The insight value of ethnographic interviewing
  • Challenges for researchers, stakeholders, and research participants
  • Centering ethics and power

This session orients participants to the key principles that underpin the course and the unique kinds of knowledge and value interviewing enables. We will deepen our foundational understanding of interviewing both as a research method, and a practice within (sometimes challenging) projects, workplaces, organizations, and social environments.

Session 3: Methodology and Research Design

  • Typology of interview methods and styles
  • Complementary and supporting research methods
  • Understanding the analytic and cultural categories in a research brief
  • Transforming a research brief into an interview guide
  • Determining how many people, and who, you should interview
  • Recognizing cultural differences and other meaningful social and identity markers

A huge amount of potential value is lost when we “default” to interviews without careful, intentional research design. In this session we will learn to analyze the research brief itself to determine when and how to use interviews and other methods and data streams, whether qualitative or quantitative. This analysis is also crucial to the transformation of a brief into an effective interview guide, and we will learn best practices in this process.

Week 4: Master Session

This week, while you’re practicing your craft and deepening your understanding of the first two units, we will learn from a master interviewer. We will focus on the adaptation of methodology and research design to different social and industry contexts, and talk candidly about challenges around stakeholder buy-in, ethics, power, emotional labor, budget, scope, interdisciplinary collaboration, and more.

Week 5: How to Interview

  • Preparing for interviews
  • Ethics of Consent
  • Listening practices
  • Types of questions, probes, and prompts
  • Guiding conversations, flow, rapport, and conversational energy
  • Non-verbal cues
  • Creating empathetic, ethical, and empowering encounters
  • Using context, props, participant “homework,” and mapping exercises during the interview

Ethnographic interviews are complex: there are many layers of information, context, and meaning. To create rich data and deep insight, you’ll need not only the rigor of a researcher, but also all of your senses, emotional and cultural intelligence, adaptability, and more. In this session we’ll learn and practice (practice, practice!) the fundamentals, as well as creative methods of elicitation. Throughout, we sustain attention to ensuring positive, ethical experiences for research participants.

Week 6: How to Interview Well

  • Tactical details: recording devices, online interviewing, note taking, transcriptions
  • Addressing sensitive issues
  • Staying with questions, tempo, and silence
  • Inequality, micropolitics, scientific colonialism, status
  • Challenging or difficult participants
  • Referential bias, decontextualization, and other obstacles to understanding

There are solid ethnographic interviews…and then there are great ethnographic interviews that yield supremely valuable insights. In this session we go even deeper into the tactical, stylistic, and interpersonal dynamics that will take you to the next level of mastery. We will also learn to navigate sensitive issues and challenges and go further into power dynamics and sources of bias and misunderstanding.

Week 7: Master Session

This week, while you’re practicing your craft and deepening your understanding of the second two units, we will learn from a master interviewer. This session focuses on the journey to becoming a truly expert interviewer, hard-won lessons and tips, and candid conversation about successes and failures, emotional labor, unexpected and challenging situations, adaptation, and more.

Week 8: Analysis and Sense Making

  • Analysis approaches and best practices
  • Creating, reading, and interpreting transcripts
  • Rapid analysis
  • Creating themes and codes
  • Grounded theory
  • Interpretive & discourse analysis
  • Profiles and personas
  • Integrating with other types of data and insight

There are many approaches to analyzing the rich data that ethnographic interviews produce. We will learn how to choose depending on your data, research goals, stakeholders, integration with other research inputs, and the outputs that will be effective for your project. Then we cover the core sense making methods for interview data, as well as useful strategies for integration with other types of data and insight.

Instructor

Michael Powell headshot

Michael Powell, PhD, is Partner at Practica Group, a strategic insights consultancy. He has worked with clients and research teams in diverse sectors and industries, from mobility technology, health care, and consumer retail, to architecture, civic participation, and food justice. Previously he was a Strategist at the multidisciplinary design firm Shook Kelley, as well as an independent consultant and start-up co-founder. Michael has taught Cultural Analysis and Economic Anthropology at Rice University and conducted research across the USA and in Poland. Throughout his career, Michael has used interview methods to generate cultural insights and uncover the curious practices of everyday life.

FAQ

Who can enroll in EPIC Courses?

Courses are open to EPIC Members, and membership is open to everyone! Become an EPIC Member to register.

What are your cancellation and transfer policies?

A full refund, less a $25 cancellation fee, can be requested up to three weeks before the first day of the course OR until the course is sold out, whichever comes first. You may transfer your registration to someone else at any time; the recipient must be an EPIC Member prior to transfer. To request a transfer contact: registration@epicpeople.org

Are there alternative payment options?

Please contact us at registration@epicpeople.org to:

  • enroll multiple people in a course
  • request a payment plan
  • arrange payment by wire or bank transfer
  • discuss a customized course or training for your team

What is an Open Badge?

The badge you’ll receive when you complete an EPIC Course is a verifiable record of the skills and expertise you’ve gained. Our badges are based on the Open Badges accreditation system: “Each Open Badge is associated with an image and information about the badge, its recipient, the issuer, and any supporting evidence. All this information may be packaged within a badge image file that can be displayed via online CVs and social networks.”

Can teams enroll together?

Yes, teams can enroll in courses together if there is space. There is no group discount. If you’re interested in a customized course or training for your team, contact us.
If we didn’t answer your question, please contact us.

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Michael Powell headshot

Instructor:
Michael Powell, PhD

“Michael’s course is an enriching experience for both novice and veteran interviewers. I highly recommend this course and would gladly take it again!”
– Marie Mika, Design Researcher & Strategist, Sociologist