An ethnographic interview is an in-depth interview with a person of another culture in order to begin understanding his or her worldview, beliefs and life situation. Ethnographic interviewing helps a person begin to understand another culture while helping to avoid merely stereotyping individuals.

Chapter 6 of the book Change: Mission and Ministry Across Cultures by E. Allen Sorum (WELS Outreach Resources, 1997) is a guide to the principals of ethnographic interviews as part of an outreach program. Pages 152 ff. also supply a “model ethnographic interview” and sample questions. You should use the model given as a guide for your interviews.

The ethnographic interview process is useful in several ways. It gives current and grassroots information about the group you are interested in. It teaches the interviewer good listening skills. It also provides objective data from which an outreach program can be planned. To ensure this latter result, however, it is important to write out a complete detailed account of each interview. This will help prevent the interviewer from focusing on a few bits that he feels are key to the exclusion of the other data.

Normally, several dozen ethnographic interviews are necessary to begin to get a grasp of a culture. For the purposes of this course, however, you are required to do only a single ethnographic interview per culture. Make sure you write out as complete an account of the interview as possible as part of your work.