Meaning, Steps and Importance of Ethno-methodology

Developed by the American sociologist Harold Garfinkel, ethnomethodology is an ethnographic approach to sociological inquiry. It seeks to document the methods and practices through which society’s members make sense of their worlds. According to Zimmerman and Pollner (1970), “Ethnomethodology represents a ‘methodography,’ i.e., a search for the practices or methods by which the substantive features of the setting are made observable.”

Meaning of Ethno-methodology 

1. Williams, 2001: Ethnomethodology is an approach in sociology that studies the “common-sense” resources, procedures, and practices through which members of a society interpret their everyday life and how these social interactions, when mutually recognized within particular contexts, create orderliness.

2. Clayman, 2001: The practice of Ethnomethodology stems from a tradition of phenomenology. Phenomenology and its descendants, ethnomethodology, both remain widely used and viable sociological traditions and still inform contemporary social research.

3. Garfinkel, 1967: Ethnomethodological studies analyse everyday activities as members’ methods for making those same activities visibly rational and reportable for all practical purposes, i.e., ‘accountable,’ as organisations of commonplace everyday activities.

4. Bogdan and Taylor (1975): Ethnomethodology is about the process by which people make sense out of the situations in which they find themselves. For ethnomethodologists the meanings of actions are always ambiguous and problematic for people in specific situations. Ethnomethodologists examine the ways people apply abstract rules and commonsense understandings in situations in order to make actions appear routine, explicable and ambiguous. Meanings are then practical accomplishments on the part of members of a society.

5. McGraw-Hill (2004): Ethnomethodology is the study of members of society in the everyday situations in which they find themselves with a focus on the ways in which they use extraordinary methods to produce ordinary social reality.

6. Have (1990): Ethnomethodology proposes the study of social order as it is constituted in and through the socially organised conduct of the society’s members.

7. Colorado State University (1993–2013): Ethnomethodology is a form of ethnography that studies activities of group members to see how they make sense of their surroundings.

8. Collins Dictionary: Ethnomethodology is a method of studying linguistic communication that emphasises common-sense views of conversation and the world.

9. Nickerson, 2021: Ethnomethodology examines resources, practices and procedures via which a society’s members interpret their daily lives, and the mutual recognition of which within certain contexts engenders orderliness.

10. Sack Gloss: Ethnomethodology is an academic discipline that attempts to understand the social orders people use to make sense of the world through analysing their accounts and descriptions of their day-to-day experiences.

Steps of Ethnomethodology 

1. Define the objectives: The objectives and goals of the analysis must be clearly defined to gain an understanding of how members of a community see their social world.

2. Fieldworks, fieldnotes and documents: It should represent the step where data of the study are collected. Data is collected by direct and indirect observation and interaction with the members of the community.

3. Data Analysis: The data collected should be analysed using appropriate quantitative and qualitative analysis tools.

4. Literature Review: The literature selected about previous study must be reviewed properly. 

Harper (2008) defines ethnomethodological ethnography as a research method that primarily consists of describing how individuals of a group perceive, define and group the ways that they execute their everyday activities, what senses and reaasinings they assign to these activities, and how they particpate in producing sufficient social order, which consists of patterns of behaviour and interactions among the group.

Importance of Ethnomethodology 

1. It researches the capacities that people have as members of society: such as speaking, knowing, understanding, and acting in ways considered sensible relative to the society and situations they find themselves in.

2. It is longitudinal in nature and can record changes as they occur because of the ongoing observation. 

3. It facilitates a better understanding of how respondents make sense of questionnaires and the reason behind their answers. 

These are the reasons why Ethnomethodology is important.