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Sgoil Cheumnaichean Saidheans Sòisealta na h-Alba

When Methods Meet

Experiments and Ethnography


This 22-minute film captures a conversation between the users of two social science research methods, experiments and ethnography. The conversation was captured at the end of a session at the fifth Scottish Graduate School of Social Science Summer School in which Daniel Nettle and Sam Hillyard drew on their experiences of working with these methods. They describe how the methods are quite different in terms of some basic elements of social science research design, such as replicability and generalisability, but go on to note that there are some surprising similarities in terms of the need of the researcher to develop rapport when collecting data. They also discuss issues such as the ethics of the researcher’s relationships with gatekeepers and with people participating in studies, including the challenges of how best to describe the purpose of the research. The film also includes a contribution from the audience at the event, which runs for a further 5 minutes.

Academics in conversation: Sam Hillyard, Durham University, and Daniel Nettle, Newcastle University.


The following are recent contributions to the discussion of the methods, and they all contain bibliographies that provide suggestions for further reading. Authors mentioned in the video:
  • R. Burgess, ‘Conversations with a purpose: the ethnographic interview in educational research’ in Burgess, R.G. (ed.) Studies in Qualitative Methodology, 1(1), (Greenwich, Connecticut  JAI Press 1988) pp.137-155.
  • S. Delamont, Fieldwork in Educational Settings, 2nd edition (London: Routledge Falmer. 2002)
  • I. Stronach and M. MacLure, Educational Research Undone: The Postmodern Embrace (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997)


We have created a downloadble resource sheet for this video. It has a transcript of the conversation, the list of references, and suggested seminar questions.