This case provides an account of conducting an institutional ethnographic study, as part of doctoral study, to explore the experiences of students in higher education, who have caring responsibilities for children under 18 years of age. Previous research into the experiences of these students had focused on a particular issue a researcher wished to address, such as finances or time-poverty, and normally looked at a particular demographic of students, such as specifically undergraduates or lone parents. My study sought to adopt the perspective of students who care for children in the broadest possible definition and to be guided towards their interpretation of the key barriers they felt significant in their experiences of higher education. This case study provides an account of the thought behind designing an institutional ethnography, within the field of the researcher's professional practice. It considers the practical implications of applying the institutional ethnographic approach and discusses the utility of institutional ethnography to professional practice research, but also considers the implications for validity of conducting ethnographic research in this context.