Write an Observation Paper

Question Description

A key part of Anthropological Research is observation. This exercise and the resultant paper you hand in will give you some insight into the ethnographic process. For this project you will need a notebook and a pen. You will then choose a public location, such as: places on campus, your local mall/mall food court, bookstore/library, park, gym, church/temple, concert, museum, etc. Anywhere you think you will find people. (see note below for exceptions, please also pick places you feel safe going to or perform this study with a friend/buddy). You will spend about a half hour to an hour observing the people in this area. You’ll want to note what they’re doing, how they’re acting, how they’re dressed, etc. Once you have gathered your notes you will then write up a 4-5 page summary of your experience. In your summary you will want to address the following questions:

WHERE did you conduct your research? As well, you’ll want to describe the area you observed in addition to naming it. If it is food court, are there many tables, or just a few? Is it a small area, a large area? You’ll want to make sure the area you choose is big enough to get a few different people involved, but not big enough that you’ll need hours to cover the place.

WHEN did you conduct your research? As with the above question, I’m not just asking for the exact time but also some background. Why did you choose this time? Was it lunch time, rush hour, the early morning? You want to pick times based on when you think people will be around.

WHO were you observing? This section should also include some of your observations about how people were dressed, and if there were differences between people like employee/customer.

WHAT were people doing during the time you observed them? Describe some of the activities you saw while you were observing these people. Were people eating, reading, talking, walking through?

HOW were the peoples actions different than what you expected? In this section you should offer your reactions to the activities that fell outside of what you thought would happen in that place. Were there people not eating in the food court, if so what were they doing? Were there people selling things at the park as part of a fair? In some cases you may not find anything different from your expectations. In that case talk about how the activities conformed to your expectations.

WHY do you think this conformity/these differences exist? Is there a reason some talking is allowed in a library or church? Why do you think people might be allowed to read book before buying them? Talk about the reasons why you think some of the behaviors you observe happen in that space.

Lastly, TALK about your reaction to doing this project. This last section is a chance for you to talk about how you felt watching people. Did you feel uncomfortable if they looked back at you? Were you thinking of going up an asking someone something? This should be a personal section and not just a summary of the paper.

The Observation Paper should be 4-5 pages in length, typewritten in 12-point font and double spaced. It may be submitted in person on the last day of class or via the Canvas system or e-mail.

Places you should not perform this observation: Your Place of Work, This Class/Another class room on campus, Black Friday/sales events, With Your Own Family, anywhere that requires special access (a school, preschool, nursing home, hospital) unless you have specific access and approval, avoid working with protected populations (see professor for mini-IRB approval), anywhere you are not of legal age to enter or participate in the activity.

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