The Methodology/Theory Interface: Ethnography and the Microfoundations of Institutions

Tammar B. Zilber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


I explore the interrelations between methodology and theory by examining how specific research strategies afford specific lines of theorizing. My case study is recent studies in which scholars applied ethnography to examine the microfoundations of institutions. I show how ethnography – a research method designed to study actions, interactions, and the fine details of the here and now as these are articulated in the context of shared cultural meanings – was deployed through four different research strategies, including (a) zooming-in on micro-dynamics of a documented macro process; (b) exploring the micro patterns of an institutional problematics; (c) focusing on pivotal institutional moments; and (d) inquiring into micro-dynamics in specific institutional locations. Each of these research strategies affords specific ways to theorize the connections between the micro and macro in institutional processes. My exploration may serve as a road map for the ethnographic study of institutions’ microfoundations and other macro phenomena, as explicating the theoretical affordances of research strategies may help researchers in making more informed choices about the method/theory interface. More generally, it highlights the need – well established yet often neglected – to explore more deeply the interplay between method and theory, and how seemingly technical methodological choices bear profound theoretical implications, both for each study and for the discipline as a whole.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalOrganization Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • ethnography
  • methodology and theory
  • microfoundations of institutions
  • micro–macro divide
  • qualitative research strategies
  • research methods


Dive into the research topics of 'The Methodology/Theory Interface: Ethnography and the Microfoundations of Institutions'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this