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Gertner AK, Franklin J, Roth I, Cruden GH, Haley AD, Finley EP, Hamilton AB, Palinkas LA, Powell BJ. A scoping review of the use of ethnographic approaches in implementation research and recommendations for reporting. Implementation Research and Practice. 2021 Mar 16; 2.
Background: Researchers have argued for the value of ethnographic approaches to implementation science (IS). The contested meanings of ethnography pose challenges and possibilities to its use in IS. The goal of this study was to identify sources of commonality and variation, and to distill a set of recommendations for reporting ethnographic approaches in IS. Methods: We included in our scoping review English-language academic journal articles meeting two criteria: (1) IS articles in the healthcare field and (2) articles that described their approach as ethnographic. In March 2019, we implemented our search criteria in four academic databases and one academic journal. Abstracts were screened for inclusion by at least two authors. We iteratively develop a codebook for full-text analysis and double-coded included articles. We summarized the findings and developed reporting recommendations through discussion. Results: Of the 210 articles whose abstracts were screened, 73 were included in full-text analysis. The number of articles increased in recent years. Ethnographic approaches were used within a wide variety of theoretical approaches and research designs. Articles primarily described using interviews and observational methods as part of their ethnographic approaches, though numerous other methods were also employed. The most cited rationales for using ethnographic approaches were to capture context-specific phenomena, understand insiders' perspective, and study complex interactions. In reporting on ethnographic approaches, we recommend that researchers provide information on researcher training and position, reflect on researchers' positionality, describe observational methods in detail, and report results from all the methods used. Conclusion: The number of IS studies using ethnography has increased in recent years. Ethnography holds great potential for contributing further to IS, particularly to studying implementation strategy mechanisms and understanding complex adaptive systems.