Digital ethnography


Explore issues and methods involved in conducting qualitative and/or ethnographic research in the social sciences related to the digital with this online course for researchers. This includes data gathering and analysis using “digital tools” such as mobile phones, GPS technology and software programmes  which supplement conventional ethnographic and qualitative research methods.  

In light of the ongoing intensification of social interaction and association which occurs online and, in the wake of a global pandemic which has severely curtailed possibilities for conducting research in direct contact with others, this course explores both possibilities and opportunities for research of the digital and via the digital. For example, through the adaptation of research projects originally designed to be conducted ‘offline’ for remote, digital and ‘online’ methods and means.

You will also look at new approaches, strategies and techniques for conducting research which engage directly with online and digital environments, including social media platforms, blogs and discussions forums and fully immersive digital realms such as video games and virtual worlds. Understanding how to use these methods opens up novel areas for research and access to new forms of data and communities.

You will be asked to design and undertake a small-scale project based on the topics covered in this course, to be presented for discussion in the final class meeting.

The course is capped at a maximum of 12 students.

Programme details

The course runs over eight weeks and is fully online, with 'live-time' synchronous sessions each week.

Participants can expect to engage with and contribute to the course for around 15 hours per week. Additional time to prepare for wider reading and assignment preparation is also required. 

Weekly units

Week 1: Online induction week

Week 2: Qualitative social sciences research and the digital: history of an evolving relationship

Week 3: Digital tools and digitally mediated research

Week 4: Digital research and best practice in data management

Week 5: Digitally-mediated association, interaction, and sociality

Week 6: Fully immersive digital spaces: research issues

Week 7: Ethnographic explorations of digitally mediated environments: project presentations

Week 8: Study week: final reflections

Digital Certification

Digital badge

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be issued with an official digital badge from the Department for Continuing Education, University of Oxford. After the course, you will receive an email with a link and instructions on how to download your digital badge. You will be able to add your badge to your email signature and share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Accredited study

Applicants may take this course for academic credit. The University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education offers Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS) points for this course.

Participants attending at least 80% of the taught course and successfully completing the assignments (see below) are eligible to earn credit equivalent to 20 CATS points (FHEQ Level 7) which may be counted towards a postgraduate qualification. More information on CATS points.

Applicants can choose not to take the course for academic credit and will therefore not be eligible to undertake the academic assignment offered to students taking the course for credit. Applicants cannot receive CATS (Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme) points or equivalence. Credit cannot be attributed retrospectively. Please note: CATS accreditation is required if you wish for the course to count towards a further qualification in the future.

Applicants registered to attend ‘not for credit’ who subsequently wish to register for academic credit and complete the assignment are required to submit additional information, which must be received one calendar month in advance of the course start date.

Please contact if you have any questions.


Description Costs
Oxford DPhil student rate £0.00
Standard course fee £945.00
Student rate (for students outside University of Oxford) £450.00


If your application is successful, an invoice for payment will be sent after you have been offered a place. Payment is not required when you submit your application.

Fee status

  • Oxford student – students must be currently enrolled in an Oxford programme
  • Student rate (ie those students outside the University of Oxford) – students must currently be enrolled in a programme at an educational institution and provide proof of that enrolment
  • Standard rate – this applies to all other applicants, which includes research fellows

Please contact for further details.

Course aims

The course will enable you to:

  • gain familiarity with strategies, methods and tools available for conducting digital ethnographic and qualitative research in the social sciences, with particular reference to digital and online environments (discussion forums, social media platforms, fully immersive online realms);
  • develop strategies for conducting ethnographic research remotely, eg via the internet and other digital technologies;
  • develop strategies for integrating digital tools (eg GPS, mobile phone and specialist software) into conventional research in the Social Sciences;
  • gain familiarity with themes and issues – ethical, practical and conceptual – involved in conducting research in digitally-mediated environments and/or research utilising digital research methods.

Assessment methods

All participants will be expected to complete two pieces of written work and a project presentation.

  • Project proposal (20%), c. 500 words/1+ page.
  • Final reflection (40%), c. 1,500 words/ of 2-3 pages.
  • Project presentation (40%), which will also include submission of presentation slides, if utilised.


The application deadline is 3 weeks before the start date.

To apply for this course, please click on the 'apply' button above. You will need to submit a supporting statement demonstrating your suitability for the course (see below) and a CV. DPhil/PhD students are also required to submit a supporting letter from their supervisor.

Please ensure you read the guidance notes before completing the application form, as any errors resulting from failure to do so may delay your application. We strongly recommend that you download and save your files before completing your application to ensure that all your changes are saved.

Supporting statement

Your supporting statement should demonstrate your suitability for this course. We recommend using the criteria in the 'selection criteria' section below to help you write this.

Selection criteria

At least some prior knowledge about and/or interest in qualitative/ethnographic research methods is required.

Whilst it will be useful to all researchers, the course is primarily aimed at people who are at the beginning (pre-data collection) of their research project. With this in mind applications will be assessed using the following criteria:

  1. Evidence of a postgraduate qualification in a relevant field at master's degree level or above.
  2. Some prior knowledge about and/or interest in qualitative/ethnographic research methods is evident. 
  3. Evidence of beginning (pre-data collection) of their research project.
  4. A brief description of their proposed research project and how this could relate to digital ethnography.