Reflections of a Novice Institutional Ethnographer

Kathleen Benjamin, Janet Rankin


Institutional ethnography (IE) was developed by Dorothy E. Smith, a Canadian sociologist, in the 1980s. This method of inquiry helps to uncover how the everyday experiences of people in local settings are organized by and linked to the work of others. The purpose of this article is to provide newcomers to IE with insights gained from the first author's learning as a novice institutional ethnographer. These insights stem from her doctoral thesis, which examined how the promotion of physical activity is socially organized in long-term-care homes. The benefits of using IE are considered and the challenges encountered in trying to understand and use this method of inquiry are examined. Strategies used to overcome the challenges are discussed.

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