Category B: Ethnoraid

Category B: Ethnoraid

What is it?

Ethnoraids are an efficient way of doing fast ethnographic investigation. The method ideally contains several of the qualitative methods and is a suitable way to begin an inquiry, as it is a good starting point for a more thorough analysis. It can, however, also stand alone as the insight from which you bring about change. An ethnoraid means being present for a short time in the field where you make observations and on-the-spot semi-structured interviews.

How is it done?

Establish your focus

You begin by finding out exactly what you want to know something about.

Identify the field

The field is where the ethnoraid is carried out. It is the place, and the people you wish to examine.

Prepare questions and materials

Bring a camera so you can document the ethnoraid. You should prepare 1-5 questions to ask the informants in the field. Consider whether you are carrying out the ethnoraid at the most opportune time; some times may be more relevant than others.

Go into the field

Make sure you have established a timeframe for the ethnoraid. This enables you to stay focused and gather your impressions and notes efficiently. 1-3 hours is an appropriate timeframe. Take notes and pictures along the way and immediately after the ethnoraid, while your impressions are still present in your mind.

Analyze the material

After the ethnoraid you draw out main points and general quotes from the material generated. Be sure to gather them from all observers so you are left with a broad knowledge base. Look for where the informants agree or disagree.

Use the new knowledge or make further inquiries

The knowledge from the ethnoraid can be used as a point of departure for further ethnographic studies or be used as the strategic foundation for improvements.

What does it take?

Time frame

The method can effectively be conducted in 1-3 hours. You should set aside 1-2 hours for analysis.


  • Materials for documentations: notebooks, camera or recorder.
  • Interview guide with 1-5 simple questions.
  • A computer for analyzing the material.


The method takes 1-3 employees. They don’t necessarily need to have any specific skills. The method is furthered by an empathic and attentive approach towards the informants.



Lizzie is the owner of an amusement park. She is about to expand the park but wants to be entirely sure the new investments will be done right. She decides to use ethnoraids to examine the composition of the amusement park to be sure she invests correctly.


Lizzie asks her two employees Mark and Anya to conduct the ethnoraid and she gives them disposable cameras, notebooks, and an instruction with 4 open-ended questions. They are each to ask 5 people the questions and document the ethnoraid along the way. Mark and Anya goes into the park and spends 3 hours talking to guests, taking notes and writing down observations.


After the ethnoraid, Mark and Anya gather their impressions and feedback from the guests into main points, pictures and direct quotes. They present the knowledge to Lizzie who uses the insights to figure out the priority of the improvements. According to the material gathered in the ethnoraid, the visitors are quite happy with the park but are missing somewhere to have their picnics.


Based on the ethnoraid Lizzie opens up a new part of the park where she includes a part for the visitors to have their picnic. Lizzie identified a challenge and used ethnoraids to solve it.

More on the method

The method consists of elements from observations, semi-structured interviews , cultural probes and experience testing.

Further readings on ethnoraid:

Dewalt, Kathleen, Dewalt, Billie & Wayland, Coral (1998) – Participant Observation i: Bernard, R. (red.) – Handbook of Methods in Cultural Anthropology – Walnut Creek: Alta Mira Press

Spradley, James (1972) – The Ethnographic Interview – United States: Wadsworth Group

Tonkin, Elizabeth (1984) – Participant Observation pp. 216-223 i: R.F. Ellen (red.) Ethnographic Research – London: Academic Press