To read this content please select one of the options below:

The seven deadly sins and ethnography

Caio Coelho (Fundação Getulio Vargas Escola de Administracão de Empresas de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil)
Carlos Eduardo de Lima (Fundação Getulio Vargas Escola de Administracão de Empresas de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil) (Escola de Formação e Aperfeiçoamento Penitenciário do Paraná, Curitiba, Brazil)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 9 March 2021

Issue publication date: 21 May 2021




The purpose of this paper is to conduct a general review of the ethnographic method. It uses metaphors to read several pieces of ethnographic research and discuss the different issues encountered during the research process. The review consisted of new articles but also important books that helped to construct and maintain the field of organizational ethnography.


The paper aims to discuss the ethnography research process through the metaphor of the Christian Seven Sins. It proposes a reflection on planning and conducting ethnographic research. The seven sins are used as a metaphor that can lead to more reflexive research for educational and explanatory purposes. Ultimately, the authors encourage organizational scholars to conduct ethnographic research.


The metaphors of the Christian seven sins represent issues that may arise during an ethnographic research. Gluttony is the dive in all topics that may appear; Greed is to lose yourself in the amount of data; Lust is to get too much involved in the field; Wrath is to take the struggles of the subjects as your own; Envy is to judge other's research according to your paradigm; Sloth is to not collect enough ethnographic data and Pride is forgetting to have a critical perspective toward your data. The redemption of these “sins” brings reflexivity to ethnographic research.

Research limitations/implications

The paper opts to treat ethnography as a methodology that can be utilized with different epistemological and ontological approaches which could diminish the degree of reflection. No metaphor would be able to explain all the details of an ethnographic research project, still the seven sins provided a wide range of ideas to be reflected upon when using the methodology.

Practical implications

As a paper on ethnography, researchers and especially PhD students and early careers can get to know the issues that can arise during ethnographic research and put them in contact with good examples of ethnography in Organization and Management Studies.


This paper groups different complexities and discussions around ethnographic research that may entail research reflexivity. These ideas were scattered through various ethnographic publications. With the review their highlights can be read in a single piece. With these discussions, the paper aims to encourage researchers to conduct good quality ethnography.



The authors would like to thank the associate editor and anonymous reviewers for their constructive insights on the manuscript. The authors are also grateful for the feedbacks received at earlier stages of this article from Professor Manolita Correia Lima from Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM) and Professor Rafael Alfadipani from Fundação Getulio Vargas – Escola de Administracão de Empresas de São Paulo (FGV-EAESP).


Coelho, C. and de Lima, C.E. (2021), "The seven deadly sins and ethnography", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 16 No. 2, pp. 315-331.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles