Improvement science and research methods seminar June 2021: Dr Maria Kordowicz on The origins and practice of ethnography in health

The June 2021 Improvement science and research methods seminar was given by Dr Maria Kordowicz, visiting research fellow at CaHRU, who presented on ‘The origins and practice of ethnography in health’ took place on 16 June 2021. Dr Kordowicz has worked in health settings for almost 20 years, including in senior NHS leadership roles. She has led numerous ethnographic studies, typically lasting several years, to explore how quality improvement efforts are enacted in health services. She was previously the Programme Lead for the King’s College London Master’s in Public Health. She holds several academic visiting roles and advisory research board positions. She is Director of the qualitative evaluation consultancy and co-developed the mental health outcome measure, which has been used by WHO and Medecins sans Frontieres. Maria is Head of Learning, Research and Evaluation at, where she leads research for social benefit. Presently, Maria is evaluation advisor on behalf of The Health Foundation for the Scaling Up Improvement grant recipients nationally.

The talk explored the historical and epistemological origins of ethnography including its anthrpological roots and philosophical lenses. There followed discussion about the different methods such as interviews, focus groups, documentary analysis, and exploration of online communities, autoethnography and participatory methods to develop cases using inductive and deductive approaches. Maria drew on examples from her own work including ethnography used in large scale improvement projects, for example introducing imaging technology or exploring poorly performing GPs.

There was a detailed examination of limitations in researching and evaluating healthcare organisations incouding time and access, problems of trust, dealing with contractual relationships, the temporal demands of academic rigour, translation into practice and managing the end of the study. Finally there was ample time for questions on the methods, their application and further examples. The seminar was warmly received by all those present. The seminar slides are shown below and a recording of the seminar can be seen below.

If you would like to attend future seminars please contact Sue Bowler (, Research Administrator at CaHRU.

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