Ethnography vs Ethnology: Differences and Similarities

While ethnography and ethnology are natural sciences, there are significant differences between these two branches of anthropology.

Ethnography is more concerned with the procedures in a society, such as marriages, weddings, cremation procedures, burial procedures, and so on.

On the other hand, ethnology provides a detailed description of society’s demographics. It comprehensively compares different ethnographies to comprehend the structure and makeup of society.

This article explores what ethnology and ethnography are, their differences, and their similarities.

Read on to learn more.

What is Ethnography?

Ethnography is a natural science subject that studies descriptive studies of human groups and societies. It investigates the social practices observed within human tribes, which vary from tribe to tribe.

Consequently, ethnography is the study of the evolution of humans during their formative years.

Furthermore, the main goal of ethnography deals with eradicating the old or current common principles that are unique to different societies, communities, or tribes around the globe.

An expert in the field of ethnography is referred to as an “ethnographer.” Their job revolves around descriptive research and analysis of distinct tribal societies, prevailing and ongoing customs, etc.

What is Ethnology?

Ethnology is a natural discipline that examines the demography of specific communities. Ethnologists analyze and contrast the ethnographies of various cultures to gain a deeper understanding of a certain culture.

In contrast to an ethnographer, an ethnologist examines the belief systems, superstitions, myths, and socio-cultural institutions shared or unique across societies from various regions of the globe.

An ethnologist conducts comparative studies of human tribes and civilizations more frequently than an ethnographer does, even though an ethnographer does not undertake in-depth comparative studies of human tribes and cultures.

The primary objective of ethnology is to develop hypotheses regarding the demography of a given civilization.

Ethnography vs Ethnology: Differences

Ethnography is concerned with the procedures performed in any community, such as marriages and burials.Ethnology provides a detailed description of a society’s demographics. It compares many ethnographies to understand a community.
Studies heavily rely on proof, not assumptions.Studies sometimes rely on assumptions.
Ethnography is more focused on a specific group of individuals.Ethnology is more inclusive of all people.
An ethnographer is an expert in ethnography.An ethnologist is a specialist in ethnology.
Ethnographers do not conduct comparative studies.Ethnologists conduct comparative studies of different human tribes and communities.

Ethnography vs Ethnology: Similarities

  • Ethnography and ethnology are natural science disciplines.
  • Ethnography and ethnology are the two subdivisions of anthropology and human history studies.
  • They both perform research on human civilizations and communities at various levels.


What are the downsides of employing ethnographic approaches?

The fact is ethnography takes time and requires a skilled researcher. Also, building trust with informants takes time to facilitate full and credible discourse.

Is cultural anthropology similar to ethnology?

No. Cultural anthropology studies all aspects of human culture, from the social to the religious to the political and everything in between. Ethnology studies culture members, structures, and individuals’ relationships to their cultures.

What makes ethnography effective?

Ethnography provides a practical approach to gaining firsthand knowledge of people’s behavior and interactions in a community.

Conclusion: Ethnography vs Ethnology

While ethnography and ethnology are natural sciences and are two branches of anthropology, they are vastly different.

And the primary difference between them is that ethnography explores diverse procedures practiced by different societies, while ethnology descriptively studies the demographics of societies.

I hope you found this article interesting. You can also read about the differences and similarities between natural and social science.

Thanks for reading.