Aim. This paper discusses the use of a nested set of methodologies (dramaturgy, ethnomethodology and ethnography) to characterize and interpret the settings, practices and interactions inherent in the healthcare environment. The aim is to explain how a set of methodologies can help make sense of research data in the clinical setting.
Background. Despite the recognition of the importance of the context of care there has been limited debate about the use and value of research methods and methodologies and how they can be best applied to the healthcare context.
Discussion Using dramaturgy the physical and social scene can clearly be established, to enable insight into ‘how the scene is contrived’. The ethnomethodological approach assists in the examination of taken-for-granted assumptions inherent in the interactions between individuals in the ‘scene’, and the underlying ‘shared’ knowledge within interactions. ‘Shared knowledge’ identifies knowledge as a medium for communication. The use of ethnography ensures that social and cultural symbols, which are an integral component of how individuals collectively attribute meaning to places and events, become a significant part in the interpretation of interactions.
Conclusion. The combination of these methods is advantageous in assisting qualitative researchers in the healthcare environment to ‘make sense’ of their complex field notes.