Peer Ethnographic Research-Evaluation

  • Objective: To engage in active dialogue with communities to gain an in-depth understanding of needs, social behaviors and changes.
  • Materials/Preparation: Peer evaluator researchers who are part of the target group are selected from community members. These peer researchers (a maximum of 16 per training) are then trained in interview and other research techniques and prompts through an intensive participatory 3 day workshop to meet the study needs, which includes a field-test of the interviews and revisions before data collection.
  • Participants: Men and women from the communities where CARE works.


Following training, the peer evaluator researchers conduct a series of conversational interviews with a small sample of people from their social network (3-6). To remind themselves of the interview, they note a few key words.

On these interviews, peer evaluators ask:

  • What do people like them say or do in terms of the specific behaviors/attitudes the research aims to study?
  • Who exercises power and how power relations are experienced?
  • Are programs meeting the needs of poor and vulnerable groups?
  • Who is excluded from resources and services, and how/why?

Interviewees are never asked to talk directly about themselves in order to maintain confidentiality so all discussions remained in third person.

Staff supervisors then interview the peer researchers every week for the duration of the study to learn about the interviews collected. Staff keep detailed notes on debriefings with peer researchers. For analysis, an experienced social researcher conducts in-depth interviews with peer researchers and develops a detailed report on her/his findings from these conversations.

Through a workshop, peer researchers also analyze their interviews as a group in order to identify key issues emerging form interviews, lessons learned for the project/initiative and changes to the tool for further use by the organization for future research and monitoring.



To help record conversations, peer researchers may also be given tape recorders or even digital cameras to make records of their work (and, in this way, illiterate people can become impact researchers).

Another variation discussed by the Tearfund ROOTS Resources on Child Participation proposes training children to conduct child-to-child interviews to gather key information about changes or as baseline information.

Related Tools



  • Options and the University of Swansea Center for Development Studies (undated). The PEER Method. 
  • N Price and K Hawkins (2004). “Researching Sexual and Reproductive Behavior: A Peer Ethnographic Approach.” Social Science & Medicine, 55(2002): pp. 1325-1336.
  • P Stephenson with S Gourley and G Miles (2004). Resourcing Organisations with Opportunities for Transformation and Sharing 7: Child Participation. Teddington: Tearfund.