P-SEC Methodology

The Psycho-Social Ethnography of the Commonplace (P-SEC; Gouliquer & Poulin, 2005) is a feminist qualitative methodology. It was developed to examine the lived experiences of marginalised groups (e.g., gays and lesbians in the Canadian military, women in non-traditional occupations, elderly people in rural environments). More specifically, P-SEC allows for the examination of the experience of marginalised groups within particular organisations, whether these are ideological (e.g., motherhood) or have a visible material presence (e.g., prison, school). The types of questions to which the P-SEC methodology lends itself are as follows:

  • How does a particular organisation shapes the lives, the sociology, and the psychology of a marginalised person on a day-to-day basis?  
  • How does a marginalised individual think of, and cope with the way organisations complicate their reality?
  • What forms does resilience take in the context of a marginalising organisation?
  • What organisational policies could be changed to improve the lives of marginalised groups?

Following the P-SEC approach, researchers identify “Organisational Moments,” which are institutional rules, laws, policies, or formal or informal practices that result in complications in the lives of marginalised individuals while benefitting the organisation. Researchers using P-SEC also shed light on the cognitive (schemata) and behavioural processes marginalised individuals utilise to make sense of, and cope with, the complications created by the Organisational Moment. An important goal of P-SEC studies is to develop policy recommendations that have the potential to improve the lives of marginalised groups.

P-SEC is inspired by the following theoretical and methodological frameworks such as: Standpoint Epistemology (Harding, 2004), Gender Schema Theory (Bem, 1995), Institutional Ethnography (Smith, 2004), Liberation Social Psychology (Martín-Baró, 1998; Guzzo, 2010), and Marginalization Theory (Hall, 1999).

If you are interested in finding out more about the P-SEC Methodology, please contact Dr. Carmen Poulin and Dr. Lynne Gouliquer at info@p-sec.org.


Gouliquer, L., & Poulin, C. (2005). For better and for worse: Psychological demands and structural impacts on gay servicewomen in the military and their long-term partners. In D. Pawluch, W. Shaffir, & C. Miall, Doing ethnography: Studying everyday life (pp. 323-335). Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.