EOC defined

Theoretical overview

S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.: A research tool

Applying S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G.

Sample study

Conducting your own study

Check your understanding

Sources for this Web site

Additional readings



Ethnography of Communication has been considered a "qualitative" method by some in the field of communication. However, it is more than just a methodology. This program of study demonstrates a commitment to learning about and expressing the various and particular ways people communicate by closely attending to the ways they use language.

What we do

By engaging community members through participant/ observation, ethnographers of communication are able to learn about a range of relating through interaction. This range includes how people come to know one another, to how they demonstrate group membership, to the norms for acting, to the significant symbols that demonstrate deeply held beliefs. Therefore, ethnography of communication should be considered as contributing to both a theory of communication as well as a methodology for studying such communicative practices.

Learning Objectives

After participating in this online module, students will gain a basic understanding of the area of Ethnography of Communication by

  • Recognizing the components of Dell Hymesí S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. Model
  • Using the model to examine a cross-cultural "speaking situation"
  • Understanding how the S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. model can be used to learn about different cultures, prevent misunderstandings, and avoid conflict.
  • Reading about how to conduct ethnography of communication research.
  • Examining the process of writing a research report.

This online module was designed to help you to learn how to study a culture or community and then extend this knowledge to cross-cultural situations by learning some terminology to explain these differences.  In order to be prepared to apply this model to the S.P.E.A.K.I.N.G. activity, you should move through the sections of the website sequentially.


This project was developed by Trudy Milburn, Ph.D. 
with funding from the
Communication Institute for Online Scholarship as part of the


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