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DESIGNING FOR DRIFT

Planning Ethnographic Qualitative Research on Groups

Michael G. Pratt and Najung Kim

BOSTON COLLEGE

Ethnographic research is guided as much from drift as design, and is perhaps the source of far more failures than successes.

(Van Maanen, 1979, p. 539)

As the epigraph suggests, ethnographic research may be the source of more failures than success. Clearly it would not be unique in this regard; especially if you consider that the rejection rate by top-tier organizational studies/management journals can exceed 90 percent. But as we discuss below, ethnographic research has its own unique challenges that make it a high-risk/high-reward endeavor. We think it is worth the risks. We challenge the reader to find a more engrossing, ...

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