ABSTRACT: This paper argues for the adoption of an ethnographic sensibility in urban research to study 'wicked problems' in cities. In particular, it suggests that applied settings of urban governance offer rich grounds for study and that one possible pathway to uncovering the nuances of these practice realities is to employ an ethnographic sensibility in urban research. Furthermore, it posits that this approach creates opportunities to smooth the passage between academic research and applied practice. The paper draws on the tradition of ethnography in urban research as well as contributions from institutional and political ethnography to form a typology of four approaches, including: embedded immersion 'on the inside', 'insider-afterwards' perspectives, influencing 'inside' practices and 'getting at the inside' through the deployment of ethnographically informed research methods. Overall, the paper concludes that employing an ethnographic sensibility in urban research assists with uncovering the nuances of contemporary urban governance settings and producing evidence that is robust for practical application and potent for theory development.