Ethnographic Action Research Toolbox

The Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) toolbox provides key tools (methods) and guidance needed to carry out Ethnographic Action Research. EAR is an approach that combines the open and holistic nature of ethnographic research, with the focus on improvement and learning that comes from action research. It is an approach that has been developed in the context of media and communication for development projects. It is particularly useful when thinking about options for Collecting and or retrieving data (methods), guidance on how to Manage Data and Analyse data, especially in relation to qualitative data. 


Authors and their affiliation

Jo Tacchi, Joann Fildes, Kirsty Martin, Kiran Mulenahalli, Emma Baulch and Andrew Skuse. 

Year of publication 


Type of resource


Key features

The EAR toolbox provides guidance and practical examples on the following:

  • overview of how to embed learning through action research, and principles of ethnographic approaches in media and communication for development contexts 
  • well known data collection methods such as interviews, short questionnaire surveys, diaries
  • innovative C4D R,M&E methods such as Communicative Ecology Mapping
  • guidance on data management and analysis, with a focus on unstructured or 'messy' data. 

Who is this resource useful for?

  • Evaluators
  • Communication for Development practitioners
  • Consultants 
  • Program Officers
  • Government Officials

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

This example has been identified as particularly useful for evaluating of communication for development. The toolbox offers researchers a range of tools for organisations and community researchers to select from. It may be used in combination with the Equal Access Participatory Monitoring and Evaluation toolkit, which provides additional guidance on establishing an organisational learning culture, and a manual for community researchers. 

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This resource is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:

  • HolisticThe methodology and the methods in the toolbox are all about taking an open and cumulative approach to understanding contexts and changes. 
  • ParticipatoryEAR includes participatory techniques including visual methods, for example, communicative ecology mapping, where participants map their communicative ecology.
  • Learning-basedthe action research component of EAR ensures that the focus of research is on enhancing understanding and continual improvement of programs.


Tacchi, J. (no date) Ethnographic Action Research Toolbox. Available at:  (Accessed: 24 February 2017). 

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