Ethnographic Case Study Thesis

Raynsford, Juliet (2015) A critical ethnographic case study exploring creativity, voice and agency in a school for pupils with physical, learning and additional needs. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.

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The inquiry is set in a medium sized primary school for children aged between 2 – 11 years old with physical, learning and additional needs. The study is relevant to those interested in inclusive research, creativity and the use of kinesthetic research methods. This inquiry’s fieldwork took place over a eighteen month period during which a major reappraisal of the role of creativity within school culture was undertaken. The focus of this thesis is exploring how changes to pedagogical practice and the aesthetic design of the school environment affected pedagogic relations within sessions designated as creative.

As a critical ethnographic case study approach is adopted an emphasis is placed upon understanding the particularity and complexity of the single case and, therefore, the thesis is duly cautious in how it generalizes its findings. As is traditional of an ethnographic inquiry this thesis is rooted in thick description accompanied by continual processes of reflection and reflexivity. This process was adopted in order to allow the researcher to identify and interrogate the multiple and diverse lines of inquiry that arose. The thesis concludes by reflecting upon how understanding of creativity and inclusion can be seen to have changed within this particular school culture over the duration of the inquiry. It also provides a summary of how the school’s relationship with the concept of creativity has evolved and continues to evolve. The methodological strengths and limitations of the research are identified and suggestions are made regarding possible future areas of inquiry.

Item Type: Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)
Subjects:L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):Creative ability -- Study and teaching, Creative teaching, Inclusive education, Creative thinking -- Study and teaching (Elementary), Creative thinking in children -- Study and teaching (Elementary), Education -- Study and teaching, Special needs -- Education, Children with disabilities -- Education
Official Date:April 2015
April 2015Submitted
Institution:University of Warwick
Theses Department:Centre for Education Studies
Thesis Type:PhD
Publication Status:Unpublished
Supervisor(s)/Advisor:Winston, Joe,1953-
Extent:345 leaves

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The authors present how to construct a mini-ethnographic case study design with the benefit of an ethnographic approach bounded within a case study protocol that is more feasible for a student researcher with limited time and finances. The novice researcher should choose a design that enables one to best answer the research question. Secondly, one should choose the design that assists the researcher in reaching data saturation. Finally, the novice researcher must choose the design in which one can complete the study within a reasonable time frame with minimal cost. This is particularly important for student researchers. One can blend study designs to be able to use the best of each design that can mitigate the limitations of each as well. The authors are experienced ethnographers who currently chair dissertation committees where a student has chosen a mini-ethnographic case study design.


Culture, Ethnography, Mini-Ethnography, Case Study Design, Triangulation, Data Saturation

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Patricia Fusch is contributing faculty in the DBA and Ph.D. in Management programs at Walden University. Her research focuses on leadership, manufacturing, women in business; ethnographic design, case study design, change management initiatives, focus group facilitation, and organizational development. Dr. Fusch has experience as a performance improvement consultant in the public and private sector. Her publications can be found in The Qualitative Report, The International Journal of Applied Management and Technology, and in The Journal of Social Change. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to:

Dr. Gene Fusch is the Lead Methodologist in the Walden University DBA program. His career has spanned both the education and business arenas. As an educator, he has chaired doctoral committees and helped numerous executive-level students pursue their learning goals. In addition to teaching, Dr. Fusch was the project manager for the National Resource Center for Materials Science Education; principal investigator for a National Science Foundation project in composites manufacturing for the marine and aerospace industries; site director and professor for several Southern Illinois University extension programs; and associate dean of technology for Bellingham Technical College. He has written articles for several peer-reviewed and professional publications on performance, human resource development, and return-on-investment strategies. He also co-authored a management book on organizational performance interventions. Dr. Fusch has worked with numerous organizations as a leadership and organizational performance consultant. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to:

Dr. Lawrence R. Ness is contributing faculty at Walden University and specializes in the areas of IT Management, Business Administration, and Doctoral Research. His research focuses on information technology management strategies towards increased effectiveness and business alignment. Dr. Ness has extensive corporate experience in the area of information technology management and has successfully chaired over 70 doctoral dissertation graduates. Dr. Ness is Founder of Dissertation101 Mentoring Services, LLC. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: or at

Recommended APA Citation

Fusch, P. I., Fusch, G. E., & Ness, L. R. (2017). How to Conduct a Mini-Ethnographic Case Study: A Guide for Novice Researchers. The Qualitative Report, 22(3), 923-941. Retrieved from

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