Participant Observation Assignment
o Demonstrate the ability to see issues from the perspective(s) of other groups/cultures by describing the values and communication styles found in groups different from one’s own and the way in which those differences can affect styles of verbal and nonverbal communication.
o Participant observation is a key methodology in cultural anthropology. This assignment is designed to provide you with firsthand experience conducting anthropological fieldwork in a local population. There are two parts to this assignment.
▪ PART 1: Pitch Idea
• Students should write a short (200 words) abstract that pitches their participant observation site (fieldwork setting or institution). Fieldwork sites should be located within a major societal institution or public space, such as health care, criminal justice, education, employment, voting, military, religion, recreational or public space, or other institutions with permission of instructor. Students should identify a basic question about why their site is important to understand social and cultural issues. You should locate at least one peer-reviewed source about your fieldwork institution to read for background information for this abstract. This can be from a journal or book.
• The instructor will provide feedback on the student’s idea and fieldwork institution before they can move on to participant observation.
▪ PART 2: Field Report
• In a well-organized and well-written essay of three-to-four pages (5 pages max; full 3 pages minimum), you will be writing up the results of your participant observation task. Your assignment should cover the following:
o Participant observation. Plan to attend at least one hour at your fieldwork institution.
▪ Observe what is happening in as much detail as possible. Some things to look for are the arrangement of the physical space of the institution, the kinds of activities taking place, the kind of people who are there (age, ethnicity, social class, gender, etc.), people’s verbal and non-verbal behaviors, and other manifestations of cultural organization.
▪ Look for patterns.
▪ On the same day you do the observation, write up your notes on your own behavior, feelings, and reactions, and findings (what you learned about the community and institution). It may not be appropriate to take notes during your activity in some places, but be sure to do it immediately after you leave when you can recall the most details. You must turn your notes in along with your essay. Your notes should not be part of the essay.
▪ Where appropriate, talk to people there and let them know about your assignment and ask further questions or solicit an interview for the next assignment. You will be referencing your field site in a follow-up assignment, so make sure your observations are thorough!
o Field report. Your essay should cover the following points:
▪ Brief description of where you went, when you were there, and why you selected that site.
▪ A synthesis of your observations (notes), including patterns you identified and your own reactions. This should include your own analysis of what you observed and thought was occurring during your observation period.
▪ Your first impressions about the kinds of ideas and cultural values that you think are reflected in the patterns of behavior you identify.
▪ Your reflections on the diversity of the people at your fieldwork institution.
▪ Any remaining questions you may have or information you feel you may be missing in order to understand the location and events you observed.
▪ The assignment should be turned in as a Microsoft Word document in 12-pt. font with 1” margins.
▪ It MUST be submitted both in class and online through Canvas.
o You will be graded out of 50 total points, according to the following rubric:
▪ 0-15 points: Write clear abstract that identifies a fieldwork site, explains why it is important, and uses at least one peer-reviewed source
▪ 0-20 points: Write in-depth field report based on participant observation, fully addressing the five points above.
▪ 0-10 points: Transcript of participant observation notes
▪ 0-5 points: Appropriate use of citations
– HELPFUL ADVICE CAN BE FOUND IN (Tierney, 2007)
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