Using an emic and etic ethnographic technique in a grounded theory study of information use by practice nurses in New Zealand

Karen J. Hoare, Stephen Buetow, Jane Mills, Karen Francis

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12 Citations (Scopus)


This paper draws lessons from the use of an emic-etic ethnographical technique in a grounded theory study of how New Zealand practice nurses use information. The technique was used to heighten theoretical sensitivity in this study. As a nurse practitioner, I (the lead author) could not step out of my emic perspective to provide an etic perspective of my own general practice. From my emic embodied subjectivity I constructed my work environment to fit with best practice. Conversely, in four other general practices, my lack of personal connection protected an etic sense of disembodiment. New insights into mental models guiding the emic and etic roles of ethnography are suggested. Emic and etic perspectives, along with embodied and disembodied feelings, are not binary opposites but rather sit along a philosophical continuum. Their position on this continuum depends on the role and relationships of the researcher(s) in the social and cultural context of the area of inquiry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)720-731
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Research in Nursing
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • embodied and disembodied
  • emic and etic
  • grounded theory
  • New Zealand
  • practice nurses
  • theoretical sensitivity

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