Ethnographic Observation

ASSIGNMENT 1. ETHNOGRAPHIC OBSERVATION (20%)

Due Monday, November 9 at 10 pm (submit on Moodle)

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The purpose of this assignment is for students to practice the anthropological skills of observing, recording, identifying patterns in, and describing people’s behavior in a public space. It involves writing fieldnotes during 20 to 25 minutes of observation of people in an outdoor public space, and then, based on your fieldnotes, writing an ethnographic description of what you observed. No photography during observations.

If you cannot do this assignment for health reasons, please let Dr. Murphy know right away.

(1) Choosing a Setting
This should be an outdoor public space where your presence and actions will be unobtrusive, and people are going about their lives. For your own safety, and that of others, social distancing must be practiced. Wear a face mask and/or maintain a 2 m distance from all other people.

ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Your observations should be done in such a way that no discomfort or loss of privacy or personal dignity is caused to the people using public space. You should not speak to people or single anyone out for scrutiny. No photography. Nothing beyond observation is required for this assignment. Settings dominated by minors (people under 18) and settings where illegal activities take place or are likely to take place, should not be used. Names of individuals, should you know one or more, should not be included in the description you submit. (Note: Observational exercises like this one do not require the approval of KPU’s Research Ethics Board.)

(2) Observations and Fieldnotes
Spend 20 to 25 minutes watching the activities, social interactions, and behaviours taking place around you. Take notes – these are called fieldnotes – that you will submit as part of this assignment and that will be used to write your ethnographic description. I recommend that immediately after you finish your observations that you take a few minutes to jot down any ideas you might have about writing your description. Your field notes do not need to be neat or clear. They need to be useful to you. I will not read them carefully; I just need to know you made them and that you used them to write your ethnographic description.

I have posted on Moodle several pages on observing from Luis Vivanco’s Field Notes: A Guided Journal for Doing Anthropology (2017, New York, NY: Oxford University Press) on Moodle. This may give you some ideas for doing your observations and writing your field notes.

(3) Ethnographic Description
While the events are still fresh in your mind, describe what you observed, including patterns in behaviour. An introductory paragraph should layout when, where, and how you did your observations. The ethnographic description should be 2-3 pages long. It should include details selected to evoke the setting and accurately describe what you observed. How can you evoke the setting in language? “using strong visual language, all your senses, and techniques such as metaphor” (Vivanco 2017: 146).

I will post on Moodle several pages on transforming fieldnotes to the ethnographic description from Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw’s Writing Ethnographic Field Notes (1995, Chicago, IL: Univesity of Chicago Press).

(4) Reflection
Write one paragraph. What did you learn from doing your observations and writing your ethnographic description? Did you have any difficulties?

FORMAT: Fieldnotes can be submitted as a text file or as an image file. The ethnographic description should be submitted as a text file. It should be typed double-spaced with pages numbered. Font size should be 12 point. Left, right, top and bottom margins should be 1 inch (2.5 cm). Do not right justify. Paragraphs should be indented, not separated by a double space and no paragraph should be longer than ¾ page.

Evaluation: The criteria used for evaluation will be:
(1) appropriate choice of setting;
(2) carefulness of observation;
(3) ethical guidelines followed;
(4) fieldnotes submitted;
(5) ethnographic description (clearly written, well organized, evocative, descriptive, grammatically correct, proofread and edited, correctly formatted.); and
(6) reflection: well written and thoughtful

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY AND AVOIDING PLAGIARISM: You do not need to use any sources for this assignment, although you may cite the textbook or the excerpts from Vivanco’s Field Notes if you wish, perhaps in your Reflection. If you do, remember that any reference to a published source, either a direct quotation, paraphrase or use of information, whether a course reading or not, must be referenced properly using in-text citations, a list of references cited, and quotation marks, as appropriate, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) or the Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago) Style Guide.

Wherever you use more than five or more words from another author’s work, these words must be in quotation marks, followed by an in-text citation. If you are quoting directly or referring to something that appears on a particular page, your in-text citation should look like this: (Parkin 1997: 31) = (author’s last name year: page number). If you are referring to a work in general, you do not need to include the page number and your in-text citation should look like this: (Parkin 1997) = (author’s last name year)

If you do not follow the correct procedures for referencing, you risk being found to have committed an Academic Integrity Violation. Students are responsible for being familiar with KPU Policy ST2 Student Academic Integrity. (See Course Outline, p. 5.)

EXTENSIONS: If you foresee difficulties in meeting the due date, you may request an extension. Extensions will not be granted in the last days before an assignment is due, except in the case of a documented medical or family emergency. (See Course Outline, page 4.)

HANDING IN ASSIGNMENTS: Assignments should be submitted as a single .doc, docx, or .pdf file using the icon for this assignment on Moodle. They are due no later than 10:00 pm on Monday, November 9. There is a 5% penalty for each day late, including weekend days. Assignment sent by email will not be accepted and will receive a grade of zero.

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