Beyond Text: Using Arrays to Represent and Analyze Ethnographic Data

Corey M. Abramson, Daniel Dohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Recent methodological debates in sociology have focused on how data and analyses might be made more open and accessible, how the process of theorizing and knowledge production might be made more explicit, and how developing means of visualization can help address these issues. In ethnography, where scholars from various traditions do not necessarily share basic epistemological assumptions about the research enterprise with either their quantitative colleagues or one another, these issues are particularly complex. Nevertheless, ethnographers working within the field of sociology face a set of common pragmatic challenges related to managing, analyzing, and presenting the rich context-dependent data generated during fieldwork. Inspired by both ongoing discussions about how sociological research might be made more transparent, as well as innovations in other data-centered fields, the authors developed an interactive visual approach that provides tools for addressing these shared pragmatic challenges. They label the approach “ethnoarray” analysis. This article introduces this approach and explains how it can help scholars address widely shared logistical and technical complexities, while remaining sensitive to both ethnography’s epistemic diversity and its practitioners shared commitment to depth, context, and interpretation. The authors use data from an ethnographic study of serious illness to construct a model of an ethnoarray and explain how such an array might be linked to data repositories to facilitate new forms of analysis, interpretation, and sharing within scholarly and lay communities. They conclude by discussing some potential implications of the ethnoarray and related approaches for the scope, practice, and forms of ethnography.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-319
Number of pages48
JournalSociological Methodology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015


  • computational ethnography
  • computational methods
  • data analysis
  • ethnography
  • mixed methods
  • representation
  • transparency
  • visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Beyond Text: Using Arrays to Represent and Analyze Ethnographic Data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this