Understanding autoethnography

Ellis explains autoethnography as a research methodology combining autobiography and ethnography as a way to research culture based on personal experience. Having done research subjects in the past I have been exposed to examples of this type of research before, though I never really thought too much about it and the importance it has to the history and future of research as a new way of examining a culture from a participant perspective instead of an outsider looking in approach.

My understanding of autoethnography was greatly helped by Ellis’ explanation of autoethnography “…as an approach to research and writing that seeks to describe and systematically analyze (graphy) personal experience (auto) in order to understand cultural experience (ethno)” (Ellis et al, 2011). This breakdown of the actual word helped me understand it better and to see it in front of me instead of attempting to imagine what it might look like.

After reading Autoethnography: An Overview, it became clear to me that autoethnographic methods have been evident in a lot of my schooling, often being taught elements of this methodology, though not knowing it existed as ‘autoethnography’. This idea of personal experience is evident in my everyday life and I have previously drawn on parts of this for research, however when I think about undertaking some more serious research I can see that I need to be able to be more analytical of my own experiences in order to truly try to understand something more closely.


Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095


  1. hello,
    this is a good explanation and understanding of what autoethnography is and a good use of illustrations to further show what the word means. It is clear that you understand the term and mentioned that you have used it in schooling and everyday life which is in fact true. However, I would have liked to see a specific personal encounter you have had with autoethnography and perhaps some authethnographic research you may have done in the past or would consider doing. Maybe for your example of how you used it at school you could mention how you did a personal reflection or a case analysis with a with a subjective view?


  2. I really enjoy the diagram that you have included, as I have been reading posts about autoethnography I find myself discovering new and simpler ways of understanding its meaning and importance, and this explanation has aided my understanding further still, researcher-and-researched. As you have mentioned in your post, a more analytical approach is important towards achieving understand through autoethnography. Like you, I find myself really struggling with identifying what it is to analyse autoethnography, involving ones self in research is easy enough to understand, but to go further to analyse that information requires more understanding. I found the following article useful in defining analytic strategies at work, and I think you will find it useful too. I enjoyed your thoughts on autoethnography.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great breakdown of what autoethnography means in regards to Ellis’ text. However, to better relate this term to everyday life it would be best if you shared some personal examples. By doing this you and your readers would benefit greatly. Maybe you could expand the idea: ‘it became clear to me that autoethnographic methods have been evident in a lot of my schooling.’ Perhaps an example of some of the research you have done in the past where these methods have been applied could be shared? Publishing personal experiences on your blog with background research is a perfect example of autoethnography and would give you an even better understanding of the topic.


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