About ethnographies

Ethnographies are first hand accounts of the daily life of a community or society. They may cover a particular people, geographical area, or social group. Ethnographies are published in books, essays in edited collections, journal articles and thesis or dissertations. Some anthropologists use other media such as pictures or films to create ethnographies.

Criteria for ethnographies in anthropology

Most ethnographies are written by anthropologists. Some may be written by teachers, missionaries, explorers, travelers, geologists, or others who live temporarily with that culture, but these may not always satisfy anthropological criteria for ethnographic studies. Check with your professor or teaching assistant to be sure. Typical criteria for ethnographies:

  1. focuses on a specific culture, community, or society
  2. the author lives in the field with the cultural group
  3. presents an account based mainly on first-hand experience
  4. offers extensive cultural description based on rigorous research methods and data collection techniques
  5. addresses contemporary as well as traditional cultures

Library search

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Subject headings

Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) use controlled vocabulary to access and express the subject content of documents. Ethnology and Ethnography have largely been divided into the following subjects or research areas. This is a searchable index. Click on a link below to discover the Library's holdings in this area:

  • Add keywords
  • Use the filters on the left of the resulting screen >Typical filters are Available Online and Peer Reviewed Journals
  1. Adolescent
  2. Adult
  3. African americans
  4. Aged
  5. Anthropology
  6. Arts
  7. Behavioral sciences
  8. Culture
  9. Ethnic groups
  10. Ethnography
  11. Ethnology
  12. Female
  13. Folklore
  14. History
  15. Humans
  16. Indians of north america
  17. Language and languages
  18. Life sciences and biomedicine
  19. Linguistics
  20. Male
  21. Middle aged
  22. Political science
  23. Psychology
  24. Race relations
  25. Religion
  26. Science and technology
  27. Social sciences
  28. Sociology
  29. Video/film


  1. Academic OneFile: A multidisciplinary database providing access to journals on a wide range of topics.
  2. Anthro Plus: Provides extensive worldwide indexing of journal articles and other documents on anthropology. Covers the fields of: Archaeology, Ethnology, Folklore, Interdisciplinary studies, Material culture, Social, cultural, physical, biological, and linguistic anthropology
  3. AnthroSource: Contains articles from the publications of the American Anthropological Association. Current issues and archives for over 30 of the AAA's most critical peer-reviewed publications including American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, Medical Anthropology. Only archives available for Anthropology News, and Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC).
  4. eHRAF World Cultures: Contains documents and information on cultures from around the world. A cross-cultural database that contains over 350,000 pages of information on all aspects of cultural and social life. The eHRAF database is unique in that the information is organized into cultures and ethnic groups and the fulltext sources are subject-indexed at the paragraph level. A tutorial is available. Updated annually.
  5. HathiTrust Digital Library: HathiTrust is a digital repository of millions of books, serials, and other materials from research institutions and libraries from around the world.
  6. JSTOR: Digital library of academic journals, books and primary sources.
  7. Sociological Abstracts: Provides citations with abstracts to articles, books and other written materials on sociology and social planning and policy


  1. Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology
  2. Ethnographic Survey of Africa: Routledge is proud to be re-issuing this landmark series in association with the International African Institute. The series, published between 1950 and 1977, brings together a wealth of previously un-co-ordinated material on the ethnic groupings and social conditions of African peoples
  3. Ethnology monographs: These in-depth publications report on the results of four-field anthropological research, and many remain noteworthy today.
  4. Series in contemporary ethnography: Contemporary Ethnographies is a call to use ethnography in imaginative ways, adjusting to rapidly evolving social circumstances. It is valuable reading for students and scholars interested in ethnographic methods and anthropological theory.
  5. Smithsonian series in ethnographic inquiry: This book series grew from the recognition that ethnography as fieldwork, analysis, and literary form is the distinguishing feature of modern anthropology. The series was devoted to exploring the ethnographic enterprise, guided by the assumption that theory and ethnography are inextricably linked and that advances in each derive from and contribute to the development of the other.
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