Ethnographic case study

Research Method

In order to gather primary research I decided to document my attempt at starting a new short story by taking notes and photographs.

Evidence Gathering

  • I started by turning on my PC
  • Not sure what I want to work on – a new project or an existing one?
  • Decide to work on a new story
Photo of my clean desk prior to starting my writing case study
  • Open up Tumblr for inspiration
Photo of my desk as I begin my case study
  • Found an image that inspires me
Image inspiration on tumblr
  • Would be great for an existing character!- I can see them working
    in the messy environment – getting frustrated
  • Decide to pull up all of the work I already have for them
  • Start with his character info
Character sheet
  • Need more inspirational images – I know roughly what ones I want now have to search online for them (again)
  • Found my image!
Finding concept art for a writing prompt
  • Pull up the story I have already started for him in a word document
  • Despite being well organised in my documents folder still takes me some time to remember where it is!
  • Remember I have a bunch of stuff on paper from when I traveled and didn’t have any my laptop with me
  • I have to root around to find it as it is in a draw full of messy papers
  • A page is missing!
Handwritten notes stacked on desk
  • I have him pretty much down now – but what about the other characters?
  • Have nothing on his counterpart – however I have an image of her in my head
  • Start looking for character design online!
Visual inspiration on pinterest
  • Remember that I have already started on her design and have taken a picture of it and uploaded it to my computer – have to search for it in my picture folders
  • Open it up in Gimp to edit the rough sketch
Sketch of my character
  • Story is coming together but has no structure – I decide to look up Freytags Pyramid as a helpful reference
Freytags Pyramid for short story structure
  • Draw out a quick sketch to map out my plot points
Hand drawn Freytags Pyramid with my own story elements added
  • Start to try to create my structure – find more resources/tips online
Short story structure article
  • Story is missing elements – a bad guy!
  • Start to design my bad guy – have lots of elements that are coming together in my head
  • Need to look into how to create a good multi-dimensional bad guy – find more resources and tips online
Research into writing believable villains
  • Character designing time!
  • Back to concept art – where does bad guy live? Whats the setting?
  • Found one that fits in well
Using tumblr to find inspirational images
  • Decide to do a little sketching – maybe start a new word doc for my villain too!
Sketch of my character
  • Realised that my desk has started to get really full with stuff
  • My computer desktop is crammed as well
Photo of my messy desk during my case study


I have not done as much work as I set out to as I spent a lot of time tracking down information. Would be better if it was all in one place to begin with as I have not really started writing or working on the main story. I like being able to have a Tumblr and pintrest etc. but I wish I could save stuff under the same umbrella somewhere, so when I want to work on it I can easily search and find relevant information instead of having to trawl around to find things. Having lots of documents, bookmarks, papers is messy and stops me from focusing. My process is really all over the place and I have even managed to lose a some of my important pieces.

Next Steps

I write science fiction and fantasy where the setting is a big part of the story but in other forms of fiction this is not the case. People that write in other genres may have a totally different process and elements that they need to create their stories.

To get well rounded research I will put together a kit and send to some other writers so they can follow this same process. This will give me some great insights into how my web application can help other people.

My next step

Conversations & current themes

Read more
My previous step

Proto-personas & scenarios

Read more