Ethnography describes and interprets people’s complex, everyday behaviour through extended, immersive observations and conversations. Three stages to doing ethnography are critically discussed: prior preparation; data collection and recording during fieldwork; and analysis after fieldwork, including finding patterns, interpretation and writing up. Ethnography is normally a long research process, but two more concentrated, less time-consuming possibilities are also considered: ‘short-term ethnography’ and ‘ethnographic approaches’. The author then reports on her own ethnographic research which investigated educational and linguistic experiences of young refugees newly settled in Norway. The process of drawing out patterns of discourse and status from the ethnographic data are critically considered, also the way in which analysis connects to theory, wider relevance and generalization. The ethical dilemma of researching within established classroom procedures which may go against the researcher’s own values is scrutinized. Recommendations relating to time pressures, learning to be an ethnographer and rigorous, detailed writing-up are provided for readers interested in taking up ethnography in their own research.