Purpose of review Qualitative research in the field of palliative care allows for a crucial study of the final stage of life from a social point of view and cultural perspective. This review evaluates the advantages and challenges of applying an ethnographic approach to palliative care research. Recent findings Thirteen ethnographic articles on organization or quality of care, decision-making, delirium, death, and the process of dying, were reviewed. Most studies use interviews, participant observation, and field notes as their primary data collection techniques. In ethnographic research, cultural issues, relationships and interactions of a group, the meanings and perceptions of the participants, the communication process, and the use of language in a particular and natural context were analyzed. Data collection and information analysis took an average of 14 months in the included studies. Summary The ethnographic method, applied with rigor, is valuable in the analysis of a real phenomenon if the particular context in which the study developed is well defined. With an ethnographic approach, researchers can uncover cultural nuances that evidence different realities.